We’ve already defined social media marketing. Now let’s look at some best practices for small business owners who want to leverage social media to reach their customers.
Many small business owners are setting up social media profiles and trying to use these networks to market their products and services.
Some are seeing great results: an influx of traffic, connecting with existing customers, and getting those customers to promote their products and services online, which draws new customers. Indeed, the benefits of an effective social media marketing campaign can be far-reaching.
Yet many small business owners find social media complicated, overwhelming, and far too technical for their tastes. I’ve worked with entrepreneurs who, in a flurry, set up profiles on every social media network available, and then burnt out within weeks because they didn’t have time to learn all the platforms, didn’t understand which platforms were appropriate for their business model, and didn’t realize that social media is not about advertising, it’s about connecting.
Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Businesses
Today, I’d like to share a few basic tips and best practices to help small business owners get started with social media marketing.
1. Choose the platforms that match your business offerings.
Let’s say you’re a doctor. You hear all the buzz about Twitter and decide it’s time to get on board. You plan to use Twitter to reach out to your existing patients and to bring new patients into your office. But after months of tweeting, you aren’t seeing any results. What’s gone wrong?
People don’t generally use Twitter to find essential services. Twitter is the internet’s proverbial water cooler. It’s where folks talk about their interests and passions: movies, music, books, sports, gaming, politics, and causes. It’s not exactly the environment for engaging with your doctor or looking for a new one.
A doctor is much better off using Facebook. People on Facebook readily like products and service providers that they patronize. And when they do, their real-life friends and family on Facebook see the connection, giving a business more exposure. Linkedin is also appropriate for doctors because it’s geared toward professionals. Doctors acquire many of their patients through referrals, and Linkedin presents an ideal platform to build a referral network of medical professionals.
That’s not to say that Twitter is never appropriate for a doctor — there are many cases in which it would be a beneficial platform for a doctor, especially if that doctor has a blog, appears at speaking engagements, or has published a book.
It’s not enough to jump on the social media bandwagon. You’ve got to pick which wagons in the caravan are right for you.
2. Consistency in branding and messaging.
Once you know which social media networks are a good match for your business, you can start setting up profiles. This is where understanding branding and basic marketing comes in handy. You should use one image (your logo) consistently across all marketing channels as your core identifier. These marketing channels include your social media profiles. Prospective customers should get a sense of familiarity across your business cards, your website, and every social media profile that represents your business. Remember: consistency breeds familiarity.
3. Prepare to learn.
Everyone’s using social media, so you might think it’s super easy. You’ll just set up a Facebook page, and in a few days, you’ll see all kinds of new business rolling in.
Not so fast.
There’s a definite learning curve involved in using social media, and then in using it to market a business. Sure, your kids may be social-media wizards, but they are probably using these networks to socialize, not to sell products and services. Invest some time in learning techniques and strategies for social media marketing, and then spend some time learning how to master each social media platform. Otherwise, think about hiring someone to help you.
4. Make a plan, check your budget, and allocate your resources.
Before you launch any kind of marketing campaign, you should have a plan. How often will you update your Facebook page? What will you tweet about? When will you post to Linkedin? Will you use social media to broadcast your content, or are you trying to build relationships? Social media marketing requires a significant investment of time, and this is what trips up most small business owners. It all seems so fast and easy, but the reality is that an effective social media marketing campaign requires a clear strategy and diligent attention to making updates.
Before you dive in to social media, review your budget and consider hiring a marketing professional. If there’s a high learning curve, if you want to establish several social media profiles simultaneously, or if you’re simply strapped for time, then it makes sense to hand off these tasks to someone else so you can focus on running your business.
5. Start slowly and build a meaningful presence.
A common mistake that business owners make is rushing to set up multiple social media profiles. Remember that you’ll have to spend some time with each social media network to learn how to use it, and then you’ll have to figure out how to best use it for marketing (most social media sites are built for socializing, not marketing). Running your own social media campaign won’t be difficult if you start slowly, master one social media network at a time, and build your campaigns over time.
Buzz Pro Studio provides website services to small businesses and independent professionals, specializing in website design and maintenance. For more information or to get a no-obligation quote, contact me.
Melissa Donovan is the founder of Buzz Pro Studio, providing website services to small businesses and independent professionals.