Getting Started With Social Media for Your Small Business

You’ve heard how important it is for your small business to have an established presence on social media, and you’ve already signed up for your accounts. You’ve claimed your Yelp page; you’re active on LinkedIn; you’re ready to start really establishing your brand on Twitter, and it’s definitely time to move past just having a branded Facebook cover image to cover your marketing.

You know the language and you know the sites. But how do you actually go about getting started and making your impression on social media? How do you go about extending your reach?

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Photo credit: cohdra from morguefile.com

Pro Tip #1: Complete your profiles.

When people see the default egg as a Twitter picture, they tend to associate it with spam. When a business’ Facebook page is thin on information, they don’t find it valuable. A complete social media profile will let your followers know who you are, where you are, what you do, and when you do it.

This works on a details-based level, of course. Take Facebook, for example, which is becoming an increasingly more popular way for users to search for businesses, services, and products. Adding your business hours to your profile seems like such a small detail, but when those details are in place, visitors to your profile won’t even have to go looking for that information. Facebook will display your current availability with a green “available” icon, or indicate when you will be open for business again. For someone seeking products or services with the intent to purchase immediately, this could give you an edge over your competition.

Related Resource from B2CWebcast: PR Hacking: How Ideas Spread And What Marketers Need to Know

What’s more, though, is that a completed profile helps to shape your brand image. Many businesses don’t consider this. When they think branding, they think about traditional aspects like logos and slogans, but not necessarily about their brand stories.

A completed profile will help to tell the story of who you are and what you stand for as a company, which has a very humanizing effect on your brand. Customers like that because they feel like they can relate to you, and that’s a very good thing for business. It shows a readiness to engage and interact, and, more than anything, that’s what customers want when it comes to businesses and social media.

Pro Tip #2: Get active and stay active.

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Plain and simple: if you don’t interact enough, your presence will either never be noticed or it will be quickly forgotten. Get active on social media and try to make it a regular part of your day.

Not sure you have time to devote? Try to build it in to your schedule in small pieces. For example, maybe spend 15 minutes in the morning while you have your coffee. Check it again over your lunch hour and try to spend 10 or 15 minutes with it then. And in the evening, try to get caught up on replies and any scheduled posts you might want to make for the following today.

Remember: with social media, you have to give to receive. If you’re consistent (without being overbearing, of course) and you’re offering up useful information and sharing great content, people will notice.

That being said, pace yourself. A common amateur mistake is to try to do too much too soon. Someone becomes really involved and quickly burns out. Don’t become that person.

Pro Tip #3: Balance your sharing.

Social media is a great place to promote your products, services, blog posts, and anything else you can promote.

On the other hand, if you start sharing your material exclusively and only talking about yourself, you’re going to become noise. No one wants to pay attention to someone who appears to be self-obsessed.

Instead, try balancing your sharing. For example, for each of your own blog posts that your promote, promote three other people, as well. Twitter is great for this because you can easily tag the author in a tweet to let them know you enjoyed their work. And who knows? Maybe the next time they’re sharing others’ work, they’ll return the favor.

You have to give to get, right?

Pro Tip #4: Find interesting people to follow.

The company you keep says a lot about you. From a branding perspective, someone can look at the people you follow on social media sites and get a sense for what kind of person or business you might be.

It’s easy to go through and subscribe to lots of feeds on Facebook. It’s even simpler to follow everyone you encounter on Twitter.

There are two schools of thought, here. One is that you should always follow back if an account is legitimate. The other says that you should be choosy with who you follow. This post has already discussed the importance of sharing content that your followers will enjoy. If you aren’t sure where to find that content, look no further than the people who are sharing it with you.

If you follow solid, credible sources, you’ll find that they’re sharing solid, credible content. Content that you can enjoy and pass along to your followers.

Following everyone who follows you can become overwhelming and make your feeds difficult to follow. Find interesting people to follow and look at social media as a kind of education.

Pro Tip #5: Listen to the conversation.

Getting Started With Social Media for Your Small Business image One of the biggest misconceptions regarding social media is that it’s all talk. In fact, the ability to listen is one of the most powerful aspects of it.

When you start out, basic social media tools will help you to listen to conversations that are happening about your brand. You can search for your business name, geography, and keywords (and any combination thereof) and read what people are saying about you.

This ability is invaluable. If someone is having trouble with your product or had a less-than-stellar experience in your store, they’re going to take to social media. If you’re listening, you can contact them and work to turn an unhappy customer back into a happy one.

Listening in also allows you to find prospective customers who don’t even know they need you (yet). If you’re a local auto parts retailer and you’re monitoring the right keywords, you’ll know when someone from your area tweets about broken windshield wipers.

Then it’s time for you to step in and ask how you can help them get those wipers fixed. The personal note helps them to feel like someone is looking out for them.

As you become more comfortable with listening, you might consider investing in better monitoring options, including social customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, which will allow you to monitor social mentions, as well as to track leads.

The best thing about all of these tips is that they work for big businesses, but they also work for small businesses. Small business owners often think, “I can’t do that because I don’t have the resources that these bigger companies do.” It’s a lot easier than you think. And remember, too, that small businesses are often at an advantage when it comes to their ability to interact with their followers. It’s often a much more tight-knit community.

So while you may have already started using social media — have you really started using social media? Try out these tips to help you use it more effectively.

What are some of your best social media tips? 

Learn More about Spark Business℠ from Capital One.

This content is sponsored by:
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Tips Using New Media For Small Business: In this series brought to you by Spark Business from Capital One, we will provide entrepreneurs and established small business owners with a foundation in social media and content marketing – two must-haves for any marketing strategy. As we know the Business 2 Community readers and community take a particular interest in small business topics, articles in this series will also provide tips and tricks, as well as other points of interest for any small business looking to make an impact with their customers and on their bottom line.

This content is sponsored by Capital One. All opinions are 100% my own.

Discuss This Article

Comments: 5

  • Mike says:

    Thanks for providing such a great resource for small businesses. Too often these types of articles just focus on bigger companies. I would also suggest an app on Facebook like Cover Photo Magic – http://www.home.coverphotomagic.com – which lets businesses create their own cover photo templates and then offer it to their customers, who are then able to put themselves into the image – instant brand advocacy! It’s worth checking out.

    Thanks again!

  • As a small business, how do we determine which social media sites to devote time to and which ones to pass on?

    I do agree that if a service is released, we should at least reserve our name so that it is available if we decide to use it later.

    Great post though.

    Thanks.

  • Social media channels are another foot in the door for potential customers. Once you have established a strong social media presence on multiple accounts, make sure you have links to your website, blog, and newsletter signup. Make it easy for those who are engaged with your social media profiles to further engage with your business.

  • Lea says:

    Thanks for the tips! As part of a small business, I would stress the importance of LinkedIn as a way to connect with potential leads and other businesses. It is important create a separate page for your business to showcase your talent and offer insight. LinkedIn is currently revamping their Company Pages, and you can see what they have planned, here: http://ottopilotmedia.com/social-media/new-linkedin-company-page/

  • Great tips — all of these are definitely things businesses need to remember when getting started with social media. When it comes to content sharing, something else small businesses can consider is creating online videos. This can mean filming anything from product demonstrations to customer interviews to industry news. My company — KZO Innovations (http://www.kzoinnovations.com) — helps businesses without prior video experience create online video for marketing and branding purposes, which can definitely give your social media presence a boost.

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