While large organizations can afford to employ specialist staff to manage their social media presence, smaller businesses may feel overwhelmed by the vastness of the social media scene. Fortunately many of the social skills entrepreneurs learn in the real world transfer effectively to the online one.
Be a Good Listener
One of the cardinal sins of social media is using it as a platform from which to speak to potential customers. This is the online equivalent of the soapbox orator haranguing passers-by. In the real world, people will hurry past or take a detour. In the online world, they will simply block your messages. There is a huge amount of value in simply using social media to listen to what your customers are saying about you. This should always be your first step before starting to post content and should remain a priority.
Social media is an excellent channel for building a rapport with potential customers and getting to understand them better. The way to do this is to get them talking to each other and to you. There are various ways to achieve this, but all of them essentially boil down to posting quality content, which your visitors will enjoy and want to share. This could be anything from a joke, to a recipe to an in-depth blog post to a competition. The key point is that it’s created to be interesting and/or enjoyable. If people learn to like and trust you then you are far more likely to become their preferred choice when they are in buying mode or their recommendation to others who are. Some small businesses, such as local taxi companies, or even restaurants, have developed or use platform apps to help their customers keep in touch on-the-go. If you can adapt and be social, you will be ahead of the game!
Keep digging for victory
Like show business, social media is a place where it takes time and hard work to become an overnight success. To begin with, the people who connect with you over social networks are likely to be people who know you anyway. That’s absolutely fine. If you keep posting great content that they genuinely find valuable and are happy to like and share, your network will grow organically. This will also give you an opportunity to get a feel for the level of work involved with managing your social presence and by analogy whether you can reasonably continue to manage it yourself or if you need to bring in some help.
Choose the right network/s
For smaller organizations with limited resources, it can be best to focus on one network and then expand to others if later if appropriate. While the social media scene is constantly developing, at current time the key networks that businesses should investigate are: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn. Facebook is broadly equivalent to an online family scrap-book, it’s the place to post human-interest stories with photos and video. Twitter is great for sending out snappy updates. If you’re regularly updating your own website with fresh content, use Twitter to get the word out there. Pinterest is the place for sharing information about common interests. Photos are a must here. If you’re eager to show how your products or services could be used in the real world then Pinterest could be a great place to showcase them. YouTube may or may not technically be a social network, but for practical purposes, it is hugely popular and allows users to comment on posted content, which means it can essentially be treated as a social network. This is a great place to post “how to guides” and product demonstrations. LinkedIn is often jokingly called “Facebook for grown-ups” and similar guidelines apply.
Remember to follow the house rules:
This may sound basic, but it is an easy trap for the unwary. Each social media site has its own set of rules about what users can and can’t post and these are updated as required. Make sure you keep abreast of them. Also remember to follow the basic rules of social media etiquette, for example use hashtags (#) judiciously, don’t put them in front of every word!