Social Media for small businesses

Posted by gminks in social media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Since I do social media in an Enterprise company, many times my friends, family, and owners of the small businesses I frequent ask me for help getting started in social media. Most times I don’t have the time to really help them out. Once I win the lottery maybe I will spend all of my time helping smaller businesses harness the power of the network…..but for now I still have to do my day job. 🙂

I thought I’d put together a quick primer so my friends and families could have a place to start when it comes to social media. Comments with more helpful links and advice are most welcome!

Before we get started – you need to have a plan

If you want to use social media for your biz, you need to incorporate it into your business plan. You can most likely adopt a very broad strategy other companies use, and customize it for your product or service.

In my organization, our broad strategy is listen –> message –> engage.

  • You have to listen to find your audiences, understand trends, understand terminology, scope out the competitive landscape. We use a combination of RSS feeds fed into Google Reader, Hootsuite, and an eRoom database I built, but there are tons of other tools. Check out the comments in this thread for lots of other advice on listening tools.
  • Next is messaging. The content you add to social media spaces should be crafted in line with your other marketing efforts. You may be able to attract people to your social spaces based on name recognition, but they won’t stay long if you don’t provide them with current, compelling, interesting content that is useful and interesting to THEM.
    Our strategy is to post the majority of our content in our Proven Professional community on the EMC Community network. We want to have all of our really in-depth conversations there, so we post content there and make sure to link to it from other social media locations.
  • The last step is to engage. This is the part people find scary, because you actually have to talk with your audience in a open, unpredictable arena. Will they be nice to you? Will they mock you? Will they drag out some flaw in your product so everyone knows about it? OMG SCARY! You have to be ready for this. But this is where the goodness of social media comes from…actually being real and talking to people.
    You may want to check out the social media engagement report from the Altimeter group to get an idea of how enterprises are using social media to engage with their customers.
  • OK I lied, that is not the last step. Now you go back to listening – this time adding listening for how people are interacting with your messaging. It’s like the circle of social media life!!

The Social Applications

I’m going to go over three applications I get asked about the most. The best way to learn more is to try these apps out in your personal space, and determine from there if they will fit into your business plan.

Facebook

  • You want to be on Facebook because more than 500 million people are on Facebook, so there is a good chance your audience is there. Facebook is also easy to use, so that is a plus.
  • You want a Fan page. This is important – don’t make a Facebook user for your business. Create a Fan page. This allows your users to connect with you, and depending on their privacy settings your updates will be posted to your fans’ timeline. This means your fans’ friends will potentially see your updates, and connect with you.
    Here’s an older Mashable article about the 5 things a successful fan page will have.
    Check out our fan pages (Proven Professional and Academic Alliance). We’ve connected our fan pages with our Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr accounts as well. We’re using apps from a company called Involver for that (and they are free!). We use Facebook to connect to our audiences, and to invite them to our community (where we do the bulk of our messaging/content creation). But if you don’t have the resources to maintain both, maybe a Facebook fan page is enough for you!

Twitter

  • Twitter is a micro messaging tool. Users have 140 characters to get their message across. With Twitter, your customers can have a direct line to you! You can access Twitter using a web browser, a client you install on your computer or your smart phone, and even by using text messaging on your phone.
  • If you are new to Twitter, you may want to use it to listen first. Do searches for your competition, set up a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to continually search for mentions of your business or important industry terms.
  • Looking for help? I’ve written two Twitter cheat sheets. One of the best places to look for help is Pistachio Consulting’s oneforty web site.
  • Just remember – Twitter is very “in the stream”. Its a powerful way to connect with influencers, but it should just be one of many tools in your social media infrastructure.

FourSquare

  • You may remember it as an enjoyable playground game, but in social media terms Foursquare is a geo-location mobile application. You install it on a smart phone, and then if you have your GPS enabled you can “check-in” to the businesses you frequent. You get points for checking in, and you also are awarded badges. If you check-in to a locale more than anyone else, you become the mayor!
  • Why use it? First of all your customers may be using it. They check in when they get to your shop, and they can also leave tips for others who visit. This morning I left a tip about the diner where we had breakfast. If you are eating at a popular place, sometimes the tips have good advice on what to order.
  • Whether you use FourSquare or not, your customers are using it, and they are advising prospective customers if your place of business is a good place to spend money. Or if your place sucks. Because of this, at the very least Foursquare is probably someplace you want to monitor.
  • You can also use FourSquare to reward your customers for using FourSquare to advertise your business. Recently I checked into a Marriott and got extra Marriott rewards points for showing the check-in to the front desk staff. That was cool and made me happy to be there!
  • Foursquare can also be tied to Twitter and Facebook. This will give your business more visibility every time one of your customers checks-in.

That’s my overview of social media for business – the short version. I hope it is helpful. The most important thing to remember – talk to your audiences. If you are into just controlling your image, you probably want to stay away from social media. Because once you go social, you have to commit to be real.

2 Responses to Social Media for small businesses

  1. Mark Wheat says:

    Great post Gina!

    Thanks for the primer, it was perfect for us newbies. I did not know the difference between a standard user and fan page on face book. It was a great read and very informative. Thank you for sharing!!

    Mark

  2. Kris says:

    I love this post! I do social media for a very small business (my husband’s retail food business) in my (ha!) spare time. I use primarily Twitter, Facebook, and his web page – although my involvement due to time constraints is more tactical than strategic. Your suggestions are excellent!

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