Thursday, July 14, 2011

Getting Started with Social Media for Small Business

Do you think almost all small businesses are advanced users of social media? Think again! Less than 10% of U.S. small biz currently have a social media presence of any kind, and a large number of those are relatively inactive. Despite all the hype about Facebook. Twitter, blogging and such, it absolutely is not too late to get in on the tremendous potential these platforms offer. Social media is still in it's infancy!

Social media networking helps you improve your current marketing by building your relationship with your customers, and allows them to share your content with their friends and contacts. Bottom line: It's word of mouth advertising via the internet. Engaging customers and prospects on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter lets you grow your business by building customer relationships and expanding your marketing reach.

We recently sent a "tweet" about our business to our 300+ followers. One of those people "retweeted" our message to her 2757 followers. Think about that ... with one message we were able to reach over 3000 potential customers.

When we post a message on our Facebook Fan page, it also appears on the "wall" of all our friends, PLUS Google can index that post for inclusion in their search engine. Wow!

The most important point to keep in mind with social media is this ... interaction is critical. If all you do is broadcast ads to "buy my stuff", you will be wasting your time. You must use social media to build a relationship with your followers. Listen. Respond. Interact.

Getting started ... First, keep it simple. When you start out with social media, expect there to be a learning curve as you figure out how things work. Take one thing at a time and master it before moving on to another platform. Research it online. Join a forum. Read books. Ask questions. Visit other users - check our Social Media Directory.

We always suggest starting out with using newsletters to stay in contact with your customers and prospects. Services such as Constant Contact are great for managing your mailing list and keeping you within legal guidelines for sending emails. They also can interface with social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

A Facebook Fan page would be a second priority. To create one, younormally must fist have a regular personal Facebook page (profile). Once you do, you should see a link at the bottom of that page to create a Facebook Page. FB tries to make this a bit confusing. Your "profile" is your personal page, your "Page" is the business fan page.

Another very popular app is Twitter which is very easy and fast to set up. you can send out short messages in seconds. Keep track of your followers, send comments, retweet interesting posts, build relationships.

If you have not yet set up a Google profile, I would do so. Easy and free to do, it can help you with the rapidly increasing importance of Google +1 with almost no effort on your part.

Blogs are very popular in certain circles, but can be very time consuming to maintain.

We strongly suggest building your "followers" and "friends" from your current customer and prospect list. It does no good to have 1000's of followers if they are not interested in your posts, and vice-versa. This is NOT a numbers game.

Control your posts. Make them interesting ... are they something others want to read? Do not spam. Ten posts in ten minutes (or even an hour) is too much like SPAM!

Interact. Comment on others' posts. Retweet interesting tweets. Thank those who may retweet your tweets. DO NOT automate your responses. Thank people for following you or for commenting on your posts.

For more hints and tips, please follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Other references:

Here is a good article from Social Rant on getting started with social media:

Another great resource for getting started in social media from Constant contact: