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Developing an Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy

Social Media can be a little daunting for any small business that doesn’t know where to start. Before jumping into the deep end, you should sit down and develop a detailed marketing strategy that is tailored to your business’ needs. Below are a few helpful steps to get you started.
1. Choose A Platform: The first step in any social media marketing plan is to choose the platform or platforms you are going to use. There are hundreds of social media sites,  so how do you choose which ones to use? To begin, do a little research. You want to select platforms that target your intended audience as well as allow you the ability to perform any desired functions (such as “like” buttons, check-ins, etc.). Check out this great infographic on Mashable that compares how the top five platforms stack up against each other.
2. Connect:After you have chosen your desired platform(s) you want to start connecting. Begin by creating your pages and then connecting with your friends, family, and business colleagues to expose your business to their network of friends. Also try searching out people and other business that are involved in your market and then like or follow them to expand your network. Remember to be patient- most likely your pages won’t explode overnight. With time, engaging content, and good consumer interaction, your presence will grow.

3. Create & Share Content: Now that you have decided what platforms are best for you business, created your pages, and started networking, you want to develop content to share with your audience. There’s no use in being present on social media platforms if your content is boring! Your target audience is likely to stop reading and interacting with your business if your content is not engaging. Try discussing interesting or funny topics or any promotions your business has going on. Essentially, have fun with it! Here are a few great Dos and Don’ts for Social Media Sharing.

4. Engage: If someone has taken the time to comment, like, retweet, etc. any of your posts, then take the time to do the same. Taking a look at the five most engaging brands on Facebook can help give your some ideas on how to best interact with your audience.

For more detailed information on how to create an effective social media marketing plan, check out: 5 Advanced Social Media Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses.

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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.