Social media platforms, like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, can be a great marketing tool for small businesses. Signing up for an account is free, and if handled effectively and deployed as part of a larger marketing strategy, social media can help you build your brand, reach out to new prospects and stay in touch with existing customers.
But before reaching out to customers on social media, it’s important to commit to a consistent strategy and avoid common pitfalls. A poorly executed social media presence can end up harming your brand and alienating customers.
Here are five practical tips to help you launch a positive, productive social media campaign for your small business and then keep it on track:
1. Choose your social media platform wisely.
There are many social media platforms out there, and they’re designed for different functions, so take a look at your unique business needs and choose the social media venue that works for your business.
For example, Twitter can be ideal for a food truck, or other mobile business, since it allows users to easily push out updates. Pinterest can be a great venue for a bakery, gallery or other enterprise offering products with high visual appeal. Facebook may work best for a company that seeks direct customer engagement.
2. Keep tabs on what social media fans are saying.
Remember that social media participation is a two-way street. It’s a good idea to keep tabs on direct customer interactions (e.g., likes, followers, retweets, responses to Facebook posts, etc.), but being aware of indirect discussions about your company is also important. You can set up automated alerts to help track of when your business is discussed online via sites like Google Alerts and others.
3. Adopt a welcoming, casual social media tone.
When writing content for Facebook, a company blog, Twitter, etc., it’s advisable to drop the marketing speak and adopt a more casual, conversational tone. All business communications on social media should be professional, of course, and it’s helpful to have someone proofread the copy before you post it to catch any typos. But since social media is used primarily for personal communication, a friendly tone works best.
4. Give customers a reason to interact with you on social media.
If you want customers to keep visiting your Facebook page, following you on Twitter or other platforms, you’ll have to give them something of value in return. You could offer discount codes, access to online information (i.e. white papers, case studies, infographics, etc.), business updates (i.e. new news, expanded hours, upcoming sales, etc.) or ask customers for input on new services or products you’re considering. The point is to let customers know that they are valued and give them a reason to return.
5. Be careful when using social media to respond to criticism.
When you open the door for communication with customers via social media channels, you have to be prepared to respond to negative as well as positive feedback. It’s important to keep your cool and stay professional, even in response to an unfounded and highly personal attack.
The worst thing to do is to respond in kind to that sort of attack, which will only attract more attention to the problem customer and escalate the situation. Try offering to work on a resolution via email, which makes you look reasonable and productive and can take the dispute out of the public eye.
Social media platforms are the communication tool of choice for a new generation, and people of all ages are getting in on the act, pushing Facebook membership to more than one billion. Social media can be a great way for your business to establish a strong Internet presence, build your brand and engage with existing or potential customers.
But establishing a social media presence for a business is different than maintaining a personal account. It pays to think through your goals in advance and choose the right venue. It’s also a good idea to monitor social media discussions of your business and have a plan for responding to both negative and positive feedback. If you take these steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating and managing an effective social media strategy for your small business.
Aaron Hollobaugh is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at at Hostway Corporation, a provider of cloud hosting, dedicated hosting, managed hosting and web hosting services. His work has been picked up by USA Today, Fortune, Information Week, CNN, MSNBC, Bloomberg, and various media outlets. Aaron currently lives in San Antonio, TX and holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Grinnell College.
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