Social media for small businesses

Like it or loathe it, social media is a vital tool that small businesses must effectively use when up against competitors on online platforms such as Twitter. How many of us can’t resist ‘sharing’ a post and ‘liking’ a page on Facebook in the hope of winning a prize such as a free meal at a local restaurant? It’s so simple, yet so effective.

The beauty of social networking websites is that they provide the perfect opportunity for small businesses to communicate directly with their existing customers and reach new ones. If you run a business, you can post regular updates about latest offers, but also engage your customers in conversation. In fact, these platforms are a great way for small businesses to compete with larger companies. Yes, the big firms have hefty budgets to spend on their social media presence, but they’re less likely to chat with a client via Twitter about the weekend’s weather.

A well-planned social media strategy can also have an impact on the visibility of your web pages in internet search engines, helping propel your company’s listing on to the coveted first page of Google.

How to make the best use of social media

Quality, not quantity

Don’t attempt to be on every social media platform out there because you’ll only end up spreading yourself too thin. By all means experiment with various sites, but assess which ones work best for you and focus your activity there.

The professional audience of LinkedIn is ideal for communicating directly with other businesses, while the more informal nature of Facebook and Pinterest provides a direct connection between you and consumers.

It’s not all me, me, me

Build relationships with customers through online conversations, rather than bombarding them with information about the company. A certain amount of self-promotion is fine, but too much will turn your customers off. You can vary your activity by including non-business posts and showing an interest in your customers.

Stay active

It’s no good joining Facebook and Twitter, and then sitting back to wait for your customers to find you. Post regular updates, remember to make the content interesting, and time your posts when you know they will have the most impact and draw the most responses.

Use incentives

As mentioned earlier, running competitions through social media can be a good way tp raise awareness of your business. A coffee shop, for example, may invite customers to guess how many chocolate chip muffins they sold over the course of a busy weekend, with the winner being the person closest to the correct amount. Those taking part tend to enjoy the taking part as much as the prospect of receiving, say, a cup of tea and piece of cake on the house.

Respond quickly to negative comments

If someone criticises your business in the sphere of social media, the comments are out there and can spread among other users, so you can’t just ignore them. Address the issue by admitting mistakes if necessary and explaining how the situation can be rectified as quickly as possible.

Think before you Tweet

Be careful what you share on social media platforms, as you don’t want to offend your customer base with an ill-thought out Tweet, for example. Also, you don’t want to reveal company secrets that your competitors could benefit from. Make your employees aware of what they should and shouldn’t say too. Your reputation is at stake, after all.

To sum up, navigating the maze of social media may seem daunting at first for a small business, but use it correctly, and you are likely to be rewarded with an increase in customers and consequently a boost to the image and profits of your business.

Image of social media logos by AltMuslimah