In more recent years companies have realised the worth of social media and getting their messages, products or services out to a greater audience.
Unfortunately, many small businesses such as us feel pressured to do something, when it comes to social media. Many of us jump in without a clear strategy or understand how to use social media to our advantage, and spend many wasted hours promoting without measuring success.
After some careful thought we felt the following advice would give small business enterprises (SME's) a good foundation to get started.
Blogs or Facebook
Blogs are a great place to start if you have the time, they should be used to convey your message to your existing customers and prospects. You can promote your services or products, discounts and offers, as well as educate your potential customers by answering their questions before they even pick up the telephone to contact you. But your blog articles need to be unique and of high quality.
However, SME's rarely have the time to create content and communicate with their customers. So the best place for the majority of SME's to start would be with Facebook.
Other size businesses who have the resources should participate in Facebook, Twitter and Google+ as well as creating content for a blog.
Facebook is currently the online social networking leader.
Facebook allows users to build their own profiles and connect with other users. These users are able to add video, images, purchases, status updates, location check-ins, and discussions with their social circle.
Because Facebook allows your business to have a profile page or have a business account, you are able to interact with your fans the same way that users can interact with each other.
Facebook enables you to have several channels of communication with your fans, from Facebook email to status updates. Your fans can communicate directly with you, by commenting in your feed, or uploading videos and images.
Your fans can also share your content with their social circle giving you access to a wider audience - a bit like word of mouth.
It's also a great way to help you retain your customers as you can deal with any problems quickly. Be aware that very few brands actually use Facebook with the view of getting new customers. The majority have found it far more useful to help them retain customers who will purchase more from them through their Facebook pages.
You need to know how you can present your business to your fans and how your customers will be part of your community to get the full benefits of participating in here.
Similar to email, once you have engaged your prospect, conversions can take place over a number of days.
Whether you want to use your personal name, business name, or product, secure it as soon as possible. Visit all the social networks you wish to work within and see if your preferred user name is available.
Ideally your username will be related to your business or your product so people can easily associate your account with your company. Take time to think about what you want and don't rush into any old name that doesn't fit your business.
A success story!
Volkswagen (VW) have done really well within Facebook, they have created a community of VW drivers who all share photo's and tell everyone else how wonderful the VW cars are.
VW allows fans to openly discuss their thoughts and feelings about the company and to upload pictures, allowing their community to develop the VW Facebook presence.
In return VW fans get to see sneak peeks of new designs, and receive promotions no one else gets.
Twitter is another social media platform which allows users to micro blog.
Micro blogging is a term used for short announcements or updates which are limited to a certain amount of characters.
Twitter allows users to post messages using up to 140 characters.
Twitter has become a powerful communication tool during conferences, seminars, and social gatherings. It allows real time conversations about information that is breaking or being shared.
Twitter allows the use of hash tags within sentences. This allows people to tag and track topics. It also helps users find topics they are interested in.
One of the primary functions of Twitter is the ability to get your announcement in front of thousands of users out side of your immediate network of followers.
When someone spots your announcement and they find it engaging or useful they will 'retweet' your comment to all of their followers, then some of their followers will also retweet your announcement, and so it goes on.
By publishing valuable and informative tweets, you increase your chances of being exposed to tens of thousands of Twitter users, because the more your message is 'retweeted', the more exposure and visibility you receive.
If your business relies on an immediate dispersing of information to as many people as quickly as possible, than Twitter would be an ideal choice for you.
Networking / micro blogging is far slower on Facebook as users tend to take their time going through their account, whereas, Twitter users are responding immediately to your announcements, or having real time conversations.
Many conversations within Twitter are taking place within minutes and can be very old news in a period of hours. If you aren't in Twitter actively watching when it happens, you might miss it.
It is vital you know where your customers typically hangout to really understand which social media platform is likely to work best for you.
Track and measure the number of new visitors that come to your website from each platform to determine which should be the focus of your marketing attention.
Another Success Story!
Dell made Twitter work for them. They monitored Twitter for any mention of the Dell product. As soon as they spotted their name they responded. They were able to turn around negative messages and even up sell within hours.
Their technical support is active on Twitter, and I have known someone who got a response within 4 minutes. That's far quicker than calling any customer service or technical support line I have ever encountered. This clearly shows the power Twitter can bring to your company.
For the SME's who have to juggle many hats, time is the biggest consideration when it comes to using social media.
Thankfully mobile devices allow you to access websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter allowing you to update and post content on the go. Also the ability of mobile devices to take pictures and video allow for quick snapshots which you can also upload to your accounts.
This can be extremely effective when providing updates to your customers from trade shows or seminars.
Making Twitter your social platform of choice is a significant time investment, because keeping up with the news as it comes across twitter can consume a person's day.
You will have to be able to multitask to be able to manage your Twitter stream and keeping up with daily tasks.
When used as part of your businesses marketing strategy, having a blog will contribute towards increased visitors, increased search engine rankings, and more pages being included in the search engine results.
It is important you understand exactly why you are creating content, as many people get this wrong. See our short article about understanding why you are creating content. This will set your expectations correctly and help you plan your articles.
Blogs work well within the search engines because they give the search engines what they are looking for; clear architecture, links, and fresh content, whereas, your website product or service pages tend to be stagnant and rarely updated.
In a recent survey carried out by Hubspot, they found that businesses that blog receive 55% more visitors than businesses who don't blog.
These businesses also saw 97% more inbound links, and 434% more indexed pages in the search engines.
Blogging companies also drew 6.9 times more organic search engine visitors than non blogging businesses.
These figures come from companies who are really good at blogging and provide their customers with something worth reading.
Your goal is to put your visitor first and think of what they need and to provide for that need. This is a long term commitment in building trust which will help your business grow.
Create a content plan around your keywords, your services or products. You need to consider setting this up for a period of 3 to 6 months. This will help you to stay on track and make it easier to keep creating content.
Set a realistic plan you can stick to. One blog a month is a great place to start then build on this as you get better and faster at producing content. The more you can do the more benefit it will bring to your business, but only if you are producing unique, quality content.
You don't have to create a novel each time, start with bite size bits of information then build from there. Sometimes as with this blog, you mean to start out small then find you have more information to share than originally thought!
Blogs are the foundation of social media as it gives readers the ability to comment on your blog, share your content with their friends and family as well as having other companies link their website to yours. All of this is valuable to your business because it spreads the word about you, getting your business seen by more people who may eventually turn into a customer. If your blog is that good, you will even start discussions where you get a better idea of your customer's thoughts and feelings about your services/products.
Be aware comments on websites can suffer spam attacks. It is best to keep comments hidden until you have had time to check them before you approve them for display on your website. Negative comments should also be included as they give your readers prospective on your products and enable them to set their expectations at the right level before they buy from you.
Blogs are a great resource for growing your businesses visibility online, but only do this if you can provide good quality content, as poor quality content aimed at keywords and getting the search engines to notice you could do more harm to your website than good.
Media sharing such as video is currently dominated by YouTube. This also makes YouTube the second largest search engine, ahead of Bing and Yahoo! although it is not considered a search engine as such, but this shows how extensive YouTube has become.
YouTube allows users to create an account to upload videos to. You can then provide a link within your website, email or social media platform to your video. This saves a huge amount of data as you do not have the video on your website or within your email, although, the visitor will think the video is being played on your website. This has sped up sharing large video files which increased sharing significantly.
If you want to reach people, YouTube could be a good place to start.
As with websites, you need to optimise your video with a keyword specific title and description, and to complete the text fields which describe the video. The search engines will be able to read your description and use that for relevance within the search engine results.
To bring more people back to your website, make sure your YouTube account includes a link back to your website. Also, if appropriate, link the video to a relevant page on your website.
Another Success Story!
Blendtec is one example of a company who used YouTube to sell their brand.
They needed to tell people why their blender was worth the $400 and to show what you get when you purchase a high end blender. They understood people just wanted to see what a product can do and that's certainly what they gave the viewer.
Their initial outlay was $100 and an inexpensive video camera. Their videos have moved on since they started and got a little fancier.
The video below speaks for itself.
With a simple slogan "Will it Blend?" they started to blend items such as a rake handle, marbles, ice, golf balls and more recently the iPhone and iPad, while having fun blending they filmed the outcome and uploaded it to YouTube.
Companies even pay Blendtec to blend their products to tap into some of Blendtec's exposure.
The primary factor which makes YouTube marketing a success is the medium of embedded video. All you simply need to do is place a bit of script in your website, and the video will play on your page. This enables bloggers and webmaster to take videos and put them on their own websites.
By allowing people to share videos a company gets exposed to a wider audience.
Blendtec needed YouTube and video to accomplish what they did.
If YouTube is going to be your choice for social media, then be sure you have video editing capabilities. Uploading videos to YouTube is not enough to ensure people are able to connect the video with your company.
Most people will not find your video because it is on YouTube, it is more likely to be found if it is embedded in your blog or your website as well as others blogs and websites who felt it was worth sharing with their community.
Remember to include the branding of your company at the beginning of your video. That way you are getting people to connect to your business, and link to your website.
By creating videos that other people will want to display on their blog, you are working to expand your visibility.
Social media is the new way to network. It is also a great way of staying in contact with your customers, who will often buy more from you through a recommendation in Facebook or Twitter.
Whichever platform you choose to use following the list below:-
- Always complete as much of your profile as possible, which will give you better exposure.
- Don't forget to add links to your website and blog. Anyone who sees your profile will be able to follow those links and learn more about your company.
- Start Slow
- Now your profile is completed invite your customers to join you. If no one is talking ask questions to get people started.
- Spend time listening
- Don't do all the talking
- Compliment; thank people for commenting
- Link to articles you find of interest.
- Pay attention
- Remember details
- Be yourself
- Don't brag
- Review, measure and repeat.
- Track and measure the number of new visitors that come to your website from Facebook to determine if it works for your business.