I know your reaction, anonymous Internet user. Another “(Number) Tips for (Company)” post. Sigh. The world is full of social media tips for small businesses; I am not a pioneer on the Oregon Trail of digital engagement with this post.
So why write a post? The reality is that all of our experiences in the work we do provides unique perspectives and the capacity to help peers (and strangers) avoid problems. Social media is inherently a realm where content is created to advance dialogue and develop theories on strategy. No other industry is perhaps more warm to the idea of concepts and trial-and-error than small business, making it a ripe topic for discussion. What’s more, with limited budgets and the ‘laboratory’ nature of small business in general where markets are tested, ideas are branded (and rebranded) and a unique appeal can develop between company and customer.
It must be said that advertising on social media is a changing landscape I will not begin to delve into. As Facebook limits Reach, Twitter Ads continue to develop, Google AdWords requiring varying skill levels and constant monitoring, etc., I would rather focus these social media tips on areas that small businesses can merely remain attentive as they move forward. And so, without further ado, here are 10 social media tips for small businesses to use to develop themselves and advance their efforts:
- SCALE! I know you can probably launch a channel on YouTube, accounts on Facebook and Twitter, lock in a Yelp! placeholder and possibly start a blog but DON’T. Build your presence slowly so that you don’t find your team (or yourself) pulled in too many directions or, worse yet, forced to abandon a platform because you have a) too much going on to keep it active or b) it ends up being a fad.
- Identify brand differentiators and have your channels embrace them. If you sell rubber chickens, carry that personality into your social media with links to funny/clever things, simple (appropriate) jokes and more. If you’re a professional business, link to stories your key customers would appreciate reading and learning from.
- Have complete profiles. Don’t just fill out your name and address – take the time to fill out EVERYTHING. This may be a potential customer’s first introduction so convey professionalism.
- Scheduled content is your BFF. The easiest way for a small business owner to effectively develop their account is through scheduled content. Lying in bed on a Sunday morning using a curator service like Klout or Swayy to slate posts for the coming week is a simple, easy way to keep things up-to-date without logging in every day.
- Be the best at customer service. One of the most effective marketing tools is standing by your product or service when a customer is unhappy. Ensure your smartphone and email are keyed to updates so that you can respond immediately, 24/7, to someone unhappy. This will stand out in a world of massive companies and weak communication, helping to create loyalists in the process.
- Monitor for key sales-related text in your area. One of the easiest social media tips for brick and mortar small businesses is to create a Tweetdeck account and set up a query related to the product or service within a geographic radius. If you sell subs, set up a search for ‘hungry’ within 5 miles of your store. During down-time, see if anyone has posted about it in the past couple days and offer them 10% off to stop by. It’s a simple, easy way to attract business in a way that will impress prospects.
- Link back to your website while your website links to your accounts. Having someone Follow your Twitter account is great but you need to drive traffic to your website, where you can better control messaging and detail who you are. Likewise, ensure that people on your website know about all the content you’re creating and learn more through unique content published (i.e. images, video, Tweets, etc.)
- Know that your potential audience is always far larger than the person you respond to. While Facebook has limited Reach for businesses, the potential for a post to be seen by hundreds, if not thousands of people who stumble upon the interaction or see it due to a RT, blog post, etc., means quality is key. Avoid shorthand or sloppiness and spend the time necessary to add value.
- Embrace your geography. Short of being a small business that thrives on anonymity, there is a great opportunity to embrace and reflect the city you’re based in. Not only do local events provide content opportunities for stocking your editorial calendar, it’s also an ice-breaker for communicating with your audience.
- Stick to what you do best. If your business is not able to make compelling videos, don’t develop a YouTube channel. It’s better to limit your digital footprint squarely in areas you can create great, ongoing content than to set up an account and fail to make engaging work. In short, a channel with sub-par work will make your company look sub-par.
Running a small business is difficult enough. Expanding into social media and looking to enable a unique marketing arm for development can be even harder. By tackling small business social media efforts in a way that recognizes best practices and the tips included, you can avoid significant pitfalls and focus your energy effectively.