4 Steps for Small Businesses and Social Media

If you own or are a part of a small business, you know the many challenges that face you on a daily basis. I’ll venture to say that marketing is a big one. Knowing the who, what, why, when, where, and how of marketing for your business is a crucial factor in seeing your business succeed. Due to the small budgets of many small businesses, marketing is often seen as a “backseat” concern. However, with new social media networks, marketing is now easy, cheap, and can even be fun! Here are 4 steps to consider when utilizing social media for small businesses:

1. Don’t overextend yourself:

Small businesses have a tendency to overextend themselves, and try to do everything at once, in order to gain a market presence. This can often have adverse effects. By setting small goals for your business, you can gradually integrate social media marketing into your daily routine.

However, this rule also applies to social networking. By first identifying your target audience, you can then proceed to try to identify which social network(s) your audience utilizes most. By doing this, it saves you from having to create profiles on the dozens of social networks online and lets you focus on a select few.

Example: If you are a law firm or other professional association, you would most likely target users using LinkedIn. If you are a retail store, you would most likely use Facebook or Twitter.

2. Engage your audience, don’t try to sell to them:
Social media is interactive, hence the “social” part. This means that the traditional “one-way street” means of advertising are no longer effective. Businesses using social media need to engage their customers, and make them feel as if they are a crucial part to the business. Pushing sales messages and countless ads will cause you to lose customers. Audiences want to be able to input their opinions, remarks, and ideas, and then see those ideas put to use.

Integrating consumer input into the marketing strategy of your small business is a crucial element to your future success.

3. Balance your time, as well as your money:
While social media itself is free, the costs associated with it can be quite high. Deciding whether to handle social media promotions yourself, hiring a media director, or outsourcing your social media needs can have a big influence in the direction of your business. By handling social media yourself, you can save money in the short term, but in the long-term, you run the risk of losing time spent on other projects, which results in a loss of revenue.  However, by hiring a person or outsourcing your social media, you can focus on things that need attention, while leaving your social media networking to individuals or firms that specialize in just that. This method saves both time, in the short term and long term, as well as money in the long term.

4. Make your business fun and interactive, not just a brand with a logo:
This is not so much an issue for small businesses as it is in the corporate sector. Social networking opens up the possibility for transparency much more than traditional media. Consumers want to feel connected to the business, as they would a person. This is possible by engaging them. By removing the stiff, emotionless business image, you can add personality your business. This can be done by asking questions, creating surveys or polls that people can vote on, encouraging their input, creating special promotions or specials for those using social media, such as 10% off a product or service for “Checking In” on Foursquare. All of these ideas foster an environment of mutual engagement.

For more great tips on growing your small business via social media, check out the articles listed here and here.

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Posted on September 9, 2011, in Social Media and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on 4 Steps for Small Businesses and Social Media.

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