If you’re running a small business, you’ve probably already made some steps toward establishing a presence on social media. You’ve set up a Facebook page, started a Twitter account, and you’ve even toyed around with Pinterest or Instagram. For someone who doesn’t have much experience with social media marketing, you feel pretty good about your early forays into promoting your business online. But unless you have an intuitive sense for how to turn a Facebook page into something that generates revenue for your business, you’re probably doing something wrong.
You spend too much time tending your social media accounts, with little to show for your efforts. You come up with harebrained schemes to get people to like your page—contests, giveaways, specials—and find that they either don’t work, or they’re just headaches that cost you time and money. It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are a few tips that will allow you to use social media effectively, for you and for your customers.
Be an Observer, a Joiner, and a Leader
Before you established your small business’s social media presence, how did you use Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? If your answer is “not at all,” you need to spend some time observing what other people do on these sites. Create a personal account, and add the people you suspect might be regular users of the site. You should also check out the accounts of your competitors, or of businesses like yours that are doing well in other cities. Take note of what they to do to win fans and followers, and keep them engaged with their site. Once you’ve figured out how users engage with social media, you’ll want to start using what you’ve learned to make your business part of the community.
Ask your friends and neighbors to become fans of your Facebook page. Use your business’s social media accounts to join groups that are in your business’s interest, to support causes that will help your profile, and to make connections with people who are plugged into the communities you want to reach. While an observer will gain little traction online, and a joiner will just foster good will, a leader on social media will win fans and followers by creating and sharing content that has real value. It’s fine to ramp up your social media presence slowly, but you should always keep in mind that your goal is to create a presence that others will want to follow.
Be Genuine and Generous
If you’re new to online marketing, it’s dishearteningly easy to develop bad habits. Sloppy writing, cheesy photographs, and careless promotions afflict even the best Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, so even if you start your site with the best intentions, don’t be surprised if you find yourself posting something before you think about it. Instead of trying to just mimic the worst behaviors of other businesses, use your social media accounts primarily to establish strong relationships with current and future customers.
The best advice is the same one people often give whenever you’re applying to a new job—be yourself! Be genuine in what you post, share, and promote with your followers and fans. While you should never forget that your primary goal is increasing revenue for your business, this doesn’t mean that you have to turn your social media accounts into spam. In addition to creating a small business presence that feels human, you’ll want to be generous online. With a few clicks and key presses, you can wish someone a happy birthday, congratulate them on a recent accomplishment, or share someone’s fundraising goals. If you’re generous online, your followers are likely to return the favor by visiting your business.
Track and Manage Your Accounts
The advantage of building a social media presence over other forms of advertising and marketing is that it’s easy to measure how effective you’re using your accounts. If you decide that in order to succeed you need to post twenty times a week, track your progress to make sure that you’re keeping up that pace, and that people are responding to your activities. If you find that users ignore your postings on Friday afternoon, but can’t get enough of what you write on Sunday morning, you should adjust accordingly.
If you are running multiple accounts, you can use programs like HootSuite (hootsuite.com) and TweetDeck (tweetdeck.com) to help you update and monitor multiple social media platforms from the same interface. While you probably don’t want to use these tools until you have a feel for how each platform works, once you’ve set up your accounts you can save time without losing the effectiveness of your sites. Anyone can set up a social media account, but using it effectively takes patience and perseverance. These tips will help you get your accounts ready to effectively advertise your business.
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