Getting Started on Social Media for Small Business

While it may seem like a daunting task to establish and maintain a social media presence for your small business, there’s no denying it’s worth the time and effort. No matter what kind of business you’re in or how large your operation is, there are plenty of positive outcomes that can come from successfully implementing a social media strategy.

Social media is here to stay and its popularity continues to grow among all demos and types of customers. These days, almost three quarters of internet users are active on some form of social media. And of those folks, about 70 per cent use a mobile device to access their profiles and accounts, meaning they’re more engaged than ever before.

When you think about the size of the online audience waiting to be engaged, the numbers are staggering. Facebook now boasts more than 1.15 billion users, almost a quarter of whom log in to their accounts five times each day. Google+ is a growing force, with close to 400 million monthly active users and an annual growth rate of 33 per cent. But no site is building its audience more quickly than Twitter, which is now home to more than 550 million active profiles. The microblogging site saw its number of users soar by 44 per cent from 2012 to 2013.

So, what’s to be gained from giving your small business a strong presence on social media? For starters, there’s the potential for increased exposure and brand recognition, which could lead to stronger sales figures. Plus, almost half the businesses that use social media to connect with customers say they end up saving money on marketing costs by going online rather than paying for advertising in print, TV or radio.

If you’re setting up a new social media strategy, or just want to fine-tune your existing online presence, here are some helpful tips.

Start small, with something familiar
Facebook announced earlier this year that 30 million small businesses now operate pages on their network, almost double the number from just one year earlier. That massive popularity is due in large part to its widespread adoption and ease of use. Most of the people who set up pages for their small business already have a personal Facebook account, which means they’re familiar with the site and its different tools and options. Spend a few minutes every day sharing photos and status updates from your workplace the same way you would from your regular life, and you’ll start off on the right track.

Carefully consider your options
Starting small means choosing one or two social media networks to join initially, instead of creating business profiles on all possible sites and quickly becoming overwhelmed. To determine which network to start with, consider your goals. If you want a wide audience with lots of targeting options, you may decide to use Facebook. If you would like to showcase your products visually, Instagram may be the way to go. Online retailers may prefer Pinterest to drive website traffic and sales. If you’d like to position yourself as a thought leader and engage with others in your industry, Twitter may suit your objectives.

Think like a customer
These days, people are more marketing savvy than ever, meaning they’re less likely to respond to traditional advertising methods. That’s especially true on social media, where constant sales pitches aren’t just ineffective, they quickly become tiresome. So rather than trying to sell, sell, sell, simply try to engage. Have a personality. Be conversational, authentic and interesting, and people will respond to your message.

Be ready to reply
Social media users don’t just enjoy interaction, they demand it. So if you set up an online presence for your small business, be prepared for a little bit of back and forth. That doesn’t mean your social media feed has to turn into a forum for complaints and customer service. But remember, you’re asking an audience to listen to you. It’s only polite that you listen back, and reply to any questions and concerns in a timely fashion. Create some standard responses for questions you think you may be asked so you’ll be able to reply immediately, and set up email alerts so you’re notified whenever someone interacts with your social network.

Have a plan
Yes, having a social media presence is important. But so is having a strategy for your online endeavours. Do you want to boost traffic to your website or bring customers into your retail location? Maybe you want to build buzz for a product launch, or run a contest. Whatever the goal, it’s essential to understand your audience and clearly define your message before you begin. Stick to the plan and you’ll put yourself on the path to social media success.

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