If anyone still doubts that social media isn’t going to play a dominant role in small business in 2013, perhaps these New Year’s resolutions from industry experts will change their minds. A few things remain certain in the coming year: Marketing budgets will keep shrinking, and competition will stay fierce. Small businesses better strap on their seat belts, because 2013 is sure to start off with wild twists and turns, producing the kinds of kinetic energy that will accelerate them into the future. No looking down now—this ride’s ready to begin.
Small businesses should resolve to improve use of social media in 2013. Here are three easy steps
1. Research: Focus on reaching your customers on the social sites they frequent. They best way to find out is to ask.
Recommended for YouWebcast: The Art of Growth Hacking: Gaining Early Traction by Doing Things that Don't Scale
2. Plan: Make sure to create a social media plan that aligns with your business objectives.
3. Build sharable content: If you don’t have a blog, it is easy to create one. Write short blog posts on a single topic. Use keywords; add tags for SEO; include images, “share” buttons, and a comment box for engagement. Then, share your blog on social news sites (Digg, E-Zine, StumpleUpon). Post in LinkedIn Groups and initiate a discussion. Remember, people want to do business with people they know and trust.
Seek out relevant Twitter chats and online communities to deepen engagement. Focus only on those platforms most likely to benefit your business and support your strategy. Be sure your website and social pages are mobile-friendly with a strong branded presence.
For small businesses, an important social media New Year’s resolution would be this: Don’t focus on too much at once. It’s better to be on fewer social media platforms only targeting where your stakeholders are the most active rather than trying to be everywhere. Of course, through monitoring and tracking (yes there are free tools), you can stay tuned into the relevant conversations and create more meaningful opportunities for engagement. In 2013, plan for better quality participation, as opposed to a greater quantity of participation.
4. Find Networks That Matter: Terry L. Brock, (@TerryBrock) – Member, Professional Speaker Hall of Fame, Certified Speaking Professional
Small businesses today need to be active on the platforms where buyers and key influencers spend time, money, and effort. Much like we would commit to being active parts of key networks in the real world, we now need to commit the time, money, and effort to be in the digital areas that matter most to our business.
Commit to a purpose driven, holistic marketing plan, one in which your business is intentional about building targeted relationships through social media as a part of a greater unified sales strategy and understanding that social media is a gateway that opens the door to customers and prospects being guided through an organic conversion funnel that will help produce your desired results—along with many other benefits you cannot possibly imagine.
The one New Year’s resolution small businesses should consider to optimize their use of social media is the use of Squeeze. I know, I know. No one wants yet another tool to use. However, Squeeze gives you statistics on the content you share on social networks that not even Google analytics can give you. When you combine the two, you will become very smart about what works, what doesn’t work, and how to change or improve very quickly.
In 2013, we resolve to update our social media design! Making an impact with social media requires eye-catching visuals that pop, and we last updated two years ago with a new product. Time to freshen up! We’re coordinating our social media design (including blog header, custom email header, social media backgrounds, and cover art) to go along with our marketing focus for 2013. We are planning all our visual marketing together (print, email, social media) for a fully integrated and successful New Year!
As 2013 draws near on our social media endeavors, we begin to evaluate the year and speculate on 2012: What did I do right? What did I do wrong? If you used analytics, you know; if you were “winging it” you don’t. Now, I know everyone has heard about how analytics makes a big difference in social media as far as target audience and leads, but how many actually took the plunge and invested in analytics?
In my opinion, not enough of us did. Therefore my 2013 New Year’s Resolution is to continue spreading the word of how analysis and data can make a difference in the New Year, and I challenge everyone to open their minds and get away from “gut reactions” and “flying by the seat of your pants” marketing and take social media seriously. Use your data and measure as you would any other channel you put money into. What can your data and analytics do for you?
2013 small business resolution: collaboration and productivity! Become a social business by identifying and testing at least two social collaboration platforms (like Kona.com and Basecamp) to connect the dots, internally and externally. Choose options that address both the professional and personal sides of life. For collaboration on the go, make sure the choices have mobile apps.
Make it a habit to let people know they matter. Seek to give lasting compliments that forever cement in their minds what you notice, value, and find essential about others. Be specific. Be Bold. Be Real. Be the leader.
In 2013, our small business will resolve to tie our social media use to business objectives, and we will only measure social media outcomes that directly or indirectly affect those business outcomes. We will experiment and measure the results of our efforts to find out what works for our customers, our business and our industry. We will devote the resources necessary to accomplish the resolutions above, whether that be time, attention, people, or money. If after focused measurement and experimentation, it is determined that social media is not driving the business results we hoped for, we will stop doing social media and instead focus those resources on marketing efforts we know to be effective.
I believe that social media offers small business marketers significant opportunities. In 2013, every small business should make a resolution to get started by building a thorough understanding of how to interact, engage, and connect in social media. Then, hire a smart, young intern, many of which are available at a mere $10/hr., and some will work simply to fulfill college internship requirements. Through your hands-on guidance, this intern can help you execute your plan—which will include a lot of the basic, time-consuming work. Remember that a “brand” is what a business does, and a “reputation” is what people remember.
In 2013, brands need to make the resolution to get on board the social media ride and crank it up. Like a wheel, every spoke is seamlessly networked to leverage your exposure. Most importantly, you need to be the one building one-to-one relationships. In social media, people respond to people, not brands. Use Hootsuite to get your wheel turning by scheduling posts linked to your networks. Schedule real-time to interact. Go the distance, and people will follow.
Commit to commenting on the blogs of three influential people in your industry with whom you want to do business. Offer thoughtful insights on a regular basis, and your visibility will increase.
What are your tips for small businesses using social media in the New Year? What are you planning to do new or differently when it comes to social?
This post was originally published on AT&T’s Networking Exchange Blog.