Social Media is just that – social. For small business owners, it means you need to entertain, engage and encourage a dialogue with your online audience to maximize your opportunities to turn them into customers.
People go to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to be social, to network and to build human relationships. Using the old one-sided style of advertising pitches and marketing just doesn’t cut it today.
The good news is that having a successful social media strategy is less costly than other advertising and marketing campaigns. But don’t kid yourself; it takes time and effort to plan and maintain an effective social media strategy.
Here are some tips to navigate social media, whether you’re a newbie or have been online for years.
One of the most important reasons to have a social media presence is to maximize your visibility on search engines, such as Google, Bing and others. Social media is becoming increasingly more important in search engine rankings.
But you cannot just list the popular industry keywords to increase your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You need to find words that your potential customers will use. Say you own a store that sells paint. Potential customers will likely not use the official name of a specific color, but something more descriptive such as “blue sky paint.”
Your content has to be fun to draw people. That means that sometimes you should post on topics not directly related to your business.
The only way you can really know what your customers or potential customers want to talk about is by engaging in conversations with them. You can do it in your store if you have a physical presence or online if you don’t. Go to your competitors’ forums to see what they are doing and what draws the most attention. Go to the Facebook pages of people who follow you and see what they’re talking about.
You can gain visibility for your small business by visiting LinkedIn forums related to your business expertise where people are seeking advice. If you answer questions in these forums, people will find your answers when they use LinkedIn’s advanced Answers search. You can also follow up with the questioners by contacting them through LinkedIn messaging and offering to provide more information, thus turning an inquiry into an opportunity to make a new customer.
Make sure that your content plays to the strength of each social media forum. For example if you’re having a special sale at your store, you can use a Facebook post with details about prices, dates and times. Then put a link on Facebook to a picture or image on Instagram and a short exciting sentence or two on Twitter about the event.
Make sure all your content is consistent and your messaging stays on brand. If you have a logo, it should be displayed on all forums.
Consistency is also important, particularly for a forum like Twitter. Make a dedicated effort to post at the same times so that people will know when to look for your content. You can test what are the best times with tools that provide metrics.
If you are on a tight budget, tools such as HootSuite, TweetReach, Klout, Social Measure and Twazzup offer free versions of their products which provide basic measurements. However, if you have the funds, the paid versions will give you a lot more valuable information about your social media campaigns.
Quality is king. That means your photos should be appropriately edited for size for each forum and very clear. Make sure your captions are clear and include a call to action. You will substantially increase the chances for your posts to be shared if you have high-quality text and visuals. And sharing is one of the best ways to grow your social media presence and turn those social media fans into customers.