As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you know that social media needs to be a part of your marketing mix. But unless you really love it, working a social media component into your marketing plan – much less your weekly mix of activities – can sound like a tall order. The thing is, social media is one of today’s key drivers of audience engagement and a strong method for exerting more control over how the public perceives your brand – meaning you really need to get on the ball.
So social media it is! Since engaging effectively takes time and effort, we’ve compiled this brief list of 3 tactics you can implement immediately to help make this task easier. Use these to increase target market engagement, shape your brand messaging, and maybe even land a new client or three.
1. Pick your playing field
There are so many social networks out there which may sound like bad news; how on earth do you pick one or two to really focus on? It’s actually good news because it means that there is a social network dedicated to just about every type of business or consumer activity out there. If you’re a retail music outlet there’s Soundcloud and Last.fm. Booksellers have Goodreads and LibraryThing. Start-ups selling business services have LinkedIn, Focus.com, and others. To narrow your focus and choose a couple of sites to work with, just think like your customers. Where do they go when they’re online? Which sites do they frequent? You can even ask a representative sample of clients what sites they use most. But however you choose, you have to focus on two or three, rather than having to fret over the 200+.
2. Connect with customers
Engaging customers is perhaps the most important element of establishing a social media presence. Interacting with your customers and finding out what they like and what motivates them will help you to adapt your services or products to their needs. Start off small by asking relevant questions in your posts. Listen to the answers and respond to your consumers. Responding is one of the best and easiest ways to engage with your customers. Another good idea is to establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry or area. It will give customers an authority to refer back to, and keep them coming back for more.
3. Work smart
Regardless of how many social media sites you decide to work with, you can always work smarter, rather than harder. How?
• Don’t reinvent the wheel. Look for popular topics and relevant issues your customers are dealing with
• Lean on scheduling. Use one day a month to write several posts, then schedule when each will go
• Just say no to notifications. Turn notifications off so you don’t get an e-mail every time someone posts
• Visit different websites for ideas on other ways to save time and use them to maximize the time you
4. Tie it all together
Integrate your social media efforts with marketing activities you’re already using, like e-mail campaigns. While not completely in the category of social media, e-mail marketing can lead people to your social media real estate and solicit input for blog ideas or LinkedIn discussion topics. Because e-mail marketing involves communicating directly with an audience who’ve given you permission to contact them, it can be particularly effective at getting your message across when other avenues can’t. Ask your website visitors to share their e-mail addresses in exchange for something of value – like a report, white paper, or e-book – and your list will grow quickly.
And no matter which tactics you pursue, one of the most important success factors is commitment. Post on a regular schedule so your audience knows when to expect to hear from you. This also puts you top-of-mind on a regular basis, which can only lead to more phone calls and other contacts from customers and potential clients. Your business may be a small entrepreneurial venture, a home-based sole proprietorship, a burgeoning start-up, or an established member of your regional community. Whether you find yourself in one of these categories or another one altogether, social media is a tool you can use to help influence consumer purchasing decisions and how the public thinks about your brand. Get out there and start engaging!
About the Author
Kevin Kerridge is the director of small business insurance for Hiscox (@HiscoxSmallBiz), a company that provides customized business insurance for small business professionals such as consultants, marketing professionals, graphic designers, IT professionals, bookkeepers and many more.