Attention Small Business Owner: What You Need to Know Before Entering Social Media

Social mediais still a relatively new way to communicate with friends, and an even newer way to market a brand or business to consumers. Nevertheless, the social media world has become fairly crowded: Facebook has over 750 million users, Twitter  is estimated at over 200 million, LinkedIn recently passed 100 million, and Google+, the new kid on the block, claims to have over 25 million. Each day, new people, brands, and businesses create profiles for these sites in hopes to connect to users and make money. For the new businesses and brands that haven’t jumped onto the social media bandwagon yet, there are a few things that need to be given some thought before starting out. Below, I’ve laid out some points that will get you thinking about what you hope to gain out of social media. In the end, they will help you navigate the social media world, find the perfect niche for you, influence your success, and ultimately decide if the social networking scene is right for your business goals.

Choose Your Target

The first step is relatively easy. You must decide who you are targeting with your social media efforts. Is it the members of the community you live in? Or, is it anyone nationwide or, even, worldwide? Your target depends on the scope of your business and knowing this from the get-go will help you define your objective.

Define Your Objective

As was described in the introduction, hundreds of millions of people have created social media profiles for themselves, their business and brand. However, some of these profiles lay dormant, without any sign of resuming activity. So, just because everyone else has a profile, doesn’t mean your brand or business needs one. In fact, creating an account and not using it may actually hurt the image you’re trying to portray and the brand’s promise. Don’t bother creating an account you won’t use and contribute to digital overcrowding.

Think about what you hope to achieve from social media: is the objective to build exposure, create/mend a relationship, hear what people are saying, or something completely different? Clearly specifying the ultimate goal will affect the way you use social media and help you not waste your time, effort, and money.

As a side note, any brand or business can successfully use social media: it doesn’t matter if it is a tiny family-owned jewelry shop or a corporate Goliath. What does matter, however, is making sure that you can picture your final goal, so any work that is done is always guided to help reach the objective.

Create Unique Message

The next step to success in social media is figuring out what you’re offering your friends and followers. This is usually the part that is make it or break it for businesses in social media. The message you offer has to be something that people want to hear. A lot of businesses and brands end up failing here by creating small-talk or being to sales-y. For example, talking about the weather, telling people to buy a new product, or asking how the day is going is a quick way to be unfollowed and unliked. Users aren’t getting anything from posts like that at all. Instead, provide some assistance or insight. You could maybe share a link to a useful article, talk about a new industry trend, or relay an interesting story about your brand or business. The possibilities are endless and depend on your target and objective.

A word of warning: be careful about using social media for a promotional tool. Only announcing sales will result in consumers strictly shopping during sale times. Also, using social media only to describe and sell product is a big no-no. Your friends and followers will see this as spam and probably ignore your posts or, at the worst, unfollow and unlike you.

Time & Energy

Creating quality content that people want to read takes time. Using social media for a business can be more complicated that using it for personal reasons. You’ll have to analyze what your message and offering is and determine if you want to invest your effort in creating content, or if you want to pay someone else to. Remember, time is money, and maintaining your social presence can take up a lot of resources. Keeping your social media account active and updated consistently will create the biggest effect for your brand or business. One post a week will not be enough, but thirty per day is overdoing it. Finding a happy medium that will keep your friends and followers interested, without annoying them, is essential.

Also, know that using social media requires opening the door to two-way conversation. You should be reading people’s responses, answering questions, and keeping the conversation going. This will help build a relationship and let people know that they are important for your business. It will also show you the type of content people enjoy and give ideas for future content.

There’s More Than Just Facebook & Twitter

Facebook and Twitter are probably the two sites that will be the most fitting for your business. But, know that there are many other social networking opportunities as well. Instead of Twitter’s  140-character Tweets, try a full-fledged blog. With a blog, from Tumblr, WordPress, or Blogger, there is no limit to how many characters you can have per post. Try connecting your social media accounts too, so users can have more interaction with your content. For example, upon posting a new blog post on Tumblr, a link can automatically be Tweeted to your Twitter followers.

As of right now, Google+ does not allow businesses and brands on its service. But, this should be happening in the near future. A lot of brands are impatiently waiting to jump onto the service, so make sure you’re ready too to be one of the first.

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