As a small business entrepreneur, your web presence should be a top priority regardless of whether your online activity is at the core of your venture or a mere supplement to an existing brick and mortar. The process of harnessing the marketing potential of the World Wide Web has many facets, but one of the most effective is a savvy social media presence.
How can you build a buzz? For some of you, this article wont be anything new. If you've used social media as a business strategy since they added social to media, take this time to treat yourself to a latte, but make sure you bookmark this for your friends and family.
However, if this article is for you, lets see if you can wrap your head around marketing your small business online. Don't worry we all have to start somewhere, which is why I wrote this post.
Create Your Social Foundation
Naturally, you need to keep tabs on the hottest social media sites. Hottest is a relative term, remember. In this instance, it means the hottest places for my target market. Just because Facebook and Twitter are currently the most popular, doesn't mean they're the best places for you. Create profiles where the most industry-related action is happening (but no more than three at a time). You can use Knowem to make sure your company name hasn't been used, and then claim your profiles all at once.
Set up your profile and be sure to upload a picture (preferably with your company logo). Create a primary account on each site for the main business. If you have team members participating in your social campaigns, create auxiliary profiles.
You can also create a page (PLP) preferred landing page for each flagship product or service you offer. Promote your most popular products profiles more heavily than others, on places such as Technorati, StumbleUpon, or even Tumblr, and update them more often. Do note, however, that I said more heavily, not heavily. Never plaster social networks with your own goods. You have to find a happy medium between interacting and promotion which brings me to
Avoid An Excess Of Self-promotion
How do you avoid self-promotion? You cant post buy my products every day and expect social media users to instantly and mindlessly oblige (well, you can, but they wont). There's a bit more panache to it than that. Follow these 3 basic rules.
1. Be Social – Notice the word social in social media? You're supposed to socialize and interact, the way you would in the proverbial public square or at a cocktail party. When you walk into a store, the greeters don't usually ask if you want to buy something right away, right? They usually greet you and ask how you are. Humanity must come first in all business interactions, and especially with social media. If you mention your products and services, try to intertwine them with a relatable topic of the day.
2. Be Subtle – Maintaining regular status updates is one of the top ways to generate and maintain a buzz about your company. You can also join existing conversations initiated by other users. Be sure not to update often about the things you sell. If people sense you're a self-promotion machine with nothing more to offer, theyll quickly turn away. Ive seen it happen. Let your fans, followers, Likers, and profile friends discover your business model a bit more passively.
3. Be Likeable Here is the magic bullet One of the main ways people learn to like your products, services and brand is for them to like you and respect the way you interact with the community at large. If you want to get more followers and more likes, you, unfortunately, have to be genuinely likeable. I say unfortunately, because there are always people who aren't naturally outgoing. They're hard to get to know, and in an instant-gratification online medium like social media, it tends to translate into standoffishness.
If this is you, and you find it hard to interact, don't panic. You can do it, but it might take a little time. Your ideal solution may be to hire someone (or have an extrovert team member) run the brand account until you get acclimated. On the other hand, you can also create manageable identity one you can carry off well -, even if its not your social self.
If your social media profile page seems like a bot is running it, the public will notice right away. While there's a time and a place for a bit of automation (I often schedule a day of interesting links, for example), you have to be ready to respond as well. It cant actually look like your feed is automated; even a partially automated feed can turn people away. Its a tricky balance but one worth striking. (Read Building Campaigns Around Key Words and Phrases: SEO, Marketing, Social Media for an in depth article on this topic)
By responding, you're interacting in some way. On Facebook, interaction might mean commenting back, pressing Like or Share on comments, and updating about issues pertaining to your industry in non-promotional ways. On Twitter, it might be as simple as starting or continuing a conversation.
Respect Each Networks Tone And Communication Method
Each network has its own set of users, its own tone and own methods of communication. Many people are cross-platformers (yes, that's a new word now), yet they still interact according to each networks quirks. For example, Facebooks community tone is very conservative. Users are very skittish about promotional interaction. You can respect this by being low key and being one of them.
Although Twitter has the same general idea about being low key, its not near as conservative. You can tweet about industry issues, or join conversations with re-tweets and hashtags (#); often, you don't even have to be invited to be included when you jump in. Follow and make mention of prominent people, projects, companies and products that are popular or well-respected within your particular industry. Even posting links to things of interest helps you in branding.
Key Take-aways For Beginners In Social Media
There are well over 300 social networking, bookmarking, tagging and other ing platforms out there. The list, if I wrote it out, would be longer than my arm. Your job, as a small business owner stepping into social media, is to find the top three where people are talking about your industry.
Your job is not to freak out when a new platform comes along, or when only 50 people follow you. You're a business owner; you've been there and done that. You have something worthwhile to share.
Finally, your job is to connect, build associations and create communities. Its not near as complicated as it sounds. Take it one day at a time, sans panic but with the tips above, and you'll do just fine.