Social Media Basics For The Small Business Owner

Posted by Jason Squires in Small Business Marketing,Social Media Strategy on Oct 14,2013 with 0 Comment(s)

For many social media has become the centre of the universe. It’s no wonder then that businesses both large and small are looking to utilise the various social media platforms out there to connect with customers.

 

But for many small businesses, the ins and outs of social media remain a mystery.

 

If you own a small business and you’re considering a social media campaign but don’t have a clue where to start, we’ve put together this handy guide to give you a very basic overview of what to expect.

 

There are plenty of so-called social media ‘rock stars’ out there, but such is the ever-changing nature of the discipline that nobody, nobody, knows everything there is to know. Furthermore, most of what you’ll need to succeed can be learnt on the fly.

 

Read on to find out how you can get started, beginning with the most obvious question out there…

 

What is Social Media?

 

We could serve you a lengthy, dictionary-friendly description of social media but essentially all you need to know is this:

 

Social media sites are the places that internet users go for fun. Some choose to chat with friends; others play games; most share pictures and video links; and some even share their innermost thoughts.

 

Social media has become so big that some internet users no longer visit ‘traditional’ websites, instead obtaining all the information they need from within the social media playground.

 

For businesses of all sizes, infiltrating the world of social media proves to be the most effective way of reaching out to customers.

 

How Can Social Media Benefit My Company?

 

There are dozens of ways in which a social media campaign can benefit a small business. Most of these are small (insignificant-to-some) reasons that would easy to skip over. For example, being on Twitter or Facebook demonstrates that your company isn’t living in the Stone Age. Trust us; in today’s climate the last thing you want is to appear to be a relic.

 

However, there are two major benefits a well-executed campaign can offer.

  1. Brand Awareness: If you’re looking to increase awareness of your brand, social media is essential. Marketing has changed and billboards, television ads and magazine spreads no longer have the impact they once did. And forget about the telephone directory. Today you need an online presence and to really push your brand you need to take it to the people. People today can be found on social media sites. Many don’t even bother to venture elsewhere on the internet. Of course, increased brand awareness can lead to increased sales.
  2. Greater Communication: Never before has it been so easy to gage what a customer thinks of your company, your product or your services. Social media offers a two-way channel of communication that allows any small business to address positive and negative criticism as well as finding out what a customer wants.

 

What Else Do I Need To Know?

 

First, and perhaps most importantly, it’s vital that you prepare before you embark on your social media voyage.

 

Many small businesses struggle to get social media to work for them. More often than not this is down to poor preparation and not approaching the campaign with a detailed strategy.

 

Want to know what your strategy should include? Read our blog here.

 

Secondly, an effective social media campaign can take a long time. You need to be prepared for the long haul here. Don’t make the mistake of expecting immediate results. We’re not saying you won’t experience a boost within the first week, but sustained growth takes a lot of hard work.

 

Speaking of mistakes, there’re plenty of obstacles set to trip you up along the way. You need to identify these before you get started.

 

Want to know what to look out for? We’ve put together a list of 21 mistakes to avoid. Read out blog here.

 

Finally, be prepared to adjust your social media campaign regularly to suit the needs of your customers. This means regular, if not constant, analysis will be needed.

 

There’s still much to learn about social media, but that comes with practice. Now’s the time to get things underway.

 

Where Do I Get Started?

 

There is no right and wrong place to start your social media campaign. What works for one small business may not work for another. The important thing here is that you’ve done your research to see what has the best chances of benefiting your company.

 

That being said, creating your own blog is a good way to start.

 

A blog can be a window between you and your existing and potential customers. It can also act as a sounding board for both parties.

 

Your blog should be somewhat informal, although it’s important to retain a professional approach. If you have a website, you can link the two. If not, there’s nothing wrong with publishing a standalone blog.

 

There are an increasing number of websites popping up offering blog space to those that require it. They even give you the site design. All you need to do is add the content.

 

Check out WordPress, a current favourite with online bloggers.

 

Once you’ve started blogging, or if you decide blogging’s not for you, it’s time to visit with some social media giants.

 

5 Social Media Sites You Need to Know

 

  1. Facebook: The crown jewel of social media sites, Facebook has more than one billion users. Users discuss every topic under the sun and share information, pictures, videos and anything else that takes their fancy. Small businesses create a page which users can ‘like’, opening the path for discussion and marketing.

 

  1. Twitter: Wildly popular with those that access the internet on their mobile telephones, Twitter allows its 500 million+ users to update ‘followers’ in 160 characters or less. ‘Tweeting’ between small businesses and customers can be a very useful tool in terms of feedback and market research.

 

  1. YouTube: The home of video on the internet, YouTube is used the world over for hosting videos of just about everything you can imagine, from ground-breaking documentaries to music promo videos, from round table discussions to mischievous cats. For small businesses, this is a great way to advertise new products or produce ‘how to’ guides.

 

  1. Google+: Google is the biggest search engine in the world. Now the company is looking to get in on the social media party. Similar to Facebook, Google+ allows users to share information as well as joining ‘circles’ of like-minded individuals. Again, small businesses can converse with customers and increase brand awareness.

 

  1. LinkedIn: More of a social media site for professionals, LinkedIn is fast becoming a networking necessity. For small businesses, LinkedIn can be used to create a valuable list of ‘connections’ as well as provide potential customers with updates.

 

Nobody says you have to use all, or any, of these sites but a good social media campaign will generally consist of at least two of these.

 

Get Out There and Give It a Go

 

There you have it. A basic guide to the world of social media as it relates to small businesses. Now all that’s left is for you to throw your hat in the proverbial ring and see if you can’t lure some of these social media users to your brand.

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By Jason Squires