As we approach the beginning of 2014, it is now widely accepted the role of social media in business will become a deciding factor in the ability of a company to compete, become profitable or survive.
Small businesses must adopt social media to engage with their customers who increasingly use social media in various ways to shop, trade and communicate.
Businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on social media, and more small businesses are recognizing the need to join the bigger players in using social media effectively.
“Effective” is the key here though; establishing social media accounts without a strategy can be worse than having none at all. There are core fundamental reasons small businesses must have a social media strategy in place before launching a campaign.
Plunging into social media without one can lead to public relations disasters or simply wasted time and money, but crafting a plan will help ensure a business enjoys all the benefits of social media without the headaches.
Establishing a Brand
A small business must think about conveying a consistent image through social media. Should it position itself as an important part of the local community? A design firm might want to appear cutting edge while a bakery might want to make its customers feel nostalgic.
Whatever the choice is, a business should have a plan to develop and reinforce that image across their social media channels and maintain consistency.
Choosing The Right Social Channels
The social media landscape is exploding, there are a myriad of choices and companies will need to decide which social media networks will be most advantageous to them and in tune with their business goals.
This is a far better option than trying to appeal to every conceivable social media outlet and run the risk of setting up social accounts only for them to be abandoned after a few weeks. Customer demographics and type of business will help determine the best channels to choose.
The Need for Guidelines & Policy
Who will be allowed to post to the social media accounts? What subjects should be discussed on various social media platforms and which ones should be avoided?
Every company regardless of its size or business goals must prepare for and deal with customer complaints on social media, however unlikely they may be.
A clear plan for handling every contingency from unhappy customers who may take to social media to express their unhappiness, to ill-timed tweets, hacked accounts and more should be in place.
For example, many restaurants have found that responding to customers who post negative reviews, can turn the comments into a positive by offering to make things right if the customer returns for another meal.
Anticipating that not every interaction on social media will start out on a positive footing allows for the likelihood that such situations can be turned around and can even represent an opportunity for the company that responds correctly.
Set Realistic Goals
Small businesses should consider what they hope to achieve with social media. Are they trying to attract new customers or perhaps improve engagement and experiences with existing customers?
Showcasing and building a brand through social media is a big decision to take, requires commitment and is time intensive. Outsourcing the management of social media channels to a specialist may be the best option, enabling focus to be placed on the operational side of the business.
A regular schedule for posting to social accounts should be created to help maintain consistency. Depending on target audience, weekdays when the majority of people are online may be the best time.
Small businesses that remain uncertain about the benefits of social media need to embrace it now or be left behind. However, a social media presence without a strategy can lead to anything from indifference to disaster.
With a clear strategy in place, small businesses can make the most of these powerful new marketing and communication tools, and demonstrate a high return on their investment.
If you are a new adopter of social media in your business, in what ways has it been beneficial to you? Perhaps you have had a negative experience you would like to talk about and would like to make a comment?