3 social media tips for small businesses

Venturing into the world of social media can be a daunting task for anyone, especially a small business. To help make it easier, here are three tips on how to use social media more effectively.
(1) Do your research. You should already know who your audience is, but if for some reason you don’t, now is the time to learn. Knowing who makes up your target audience is important to knowing what types of social media you should be using. (i.e. MySpace is more for artists and musicians while LinkedIn is geared toward a more professional group.)

– The web is all about the ‘beg, borrow, and steal’ ideology. Research what your competitors are doing in the social media realm and model yours off of theirs – just be sure that you make yours better than theirs.

(2) Make sure you have something important to say. Customers look to social media for expert advice and opinions, not advertisements.

-Know that social media is a conversation, not a one-way street like advertising. This conversation should be used to build relationships. Remember, relations are not all positive and you may receive negative feedback from some customers.

-According to Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics, people trust what their friends have to say more than Google. This means that even if Google ranks your company number one in the search results, if a customer’s friends say they don’t like it, most likely, that customer will follow what their friend thinks and not buy your product.  This is why it’s so important to take negative feedback seriously and address it personally.  Do not brush off or immediately delete a negative comment, instead, take time to deal with the customer’s complaint and make them feel like their opinion is appreciated.

-A social media conversation may already be occurring for your company (even if you didn’t start one!). In social media, customers take ownership of the brand and may have already started a fan page for your company (unfortunately, it may not always be a positive fan page).  This is your opportunity to join the conversation and build customer relationships.

-NOTE: Do not be so quick to take the ‘ownership’ away from customers who may have already started social media for your brand. These customers are most likely some of your most loyal and you should give them credit. It is alright to monitor some incorrect, offensive or slanderous comments, but for the most part, leave well enough alone.

(3) Social media is a slow process at a fast pace.

-Social media is a new, innovative avenue for companies to become a part of. It is constantly changing with new sites being added, new applications being added to established sites, etc.  It is important to keep up-to-date on these changes as your customers most likely already do.  Also, it can take just minutes to set up a profile for your company and get started on most social media platforms.

-Though it can take just minutes to set up a profile on a social media site, it is important to note that there is a slow side to social media as well. It can take time to build a large, solid following on some of the sites. It is by no means an overnight, effortless process; the amount of effort you put forth will reflect in the results you get.  Though social media is usually free or very inexpensive, it does take a mass amount of time. If you’re not willing to put in the time, don’t start it in the first place.

-Social media is not an automatic money-maker. Yes, for some people, blogs, Facebook fan pages or Twitter profiles have made them very wealthy; however, this is not the case for most. This is also not the main purpose of social media. Social media is meant to create a lasting, meaningful relationship with customers to keep them happy and loyal. It helps companies find out what their customers are really looking for through ongoing conversations that can lead to better products and happier customers.

Social media goes much deeper than the three tips outlined here, but hopefully these tips will help you get your social media efforts off the ground and on the web.

Some helpful links:

www.mashable.com

www.socialnomics.net

www.allfacebook.com

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