There are plenty of opinions; a lot of them are on social media platforms of one variety or another, about whether social media is good for small business.
In fact, as a small business owner, you can probably find any opinion you want to find, if you are looking for an excuse to support an opinion or decision of your own.
In addition to providing platforms that are inherently about connecting and sharing, the other big deal about social media is that they are designed specifically for mobile platforms.
With mobile devices now being the dominant method of accessing virtually every kind of information on the World Wide Web, it makes a lot of sense to make your own information accessible to mobile devices. If your brand is marketing to a younger demographic or hopes to capture a slice of the millennial market, mobile is the way to go.
However, if you are really looking for insights about the strategic uses of social media for your SMB, it’s going to require making an investment. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a major financial investment.
From a purely practical perspective, SMBs need to put their message in front of people where they are; you can’t expect them to just happen by your site and have an overwhelming desire to come in and check out your product or service.
But, you’ve got to take it a little deeper than just establishing a profile and posting a few blogs or tweets. That’s where the investment comes in. It will take time, effort and thinking about what you discover before the social media landscape will start to make sense. Here are some thoughts to consider when trying to sort out social media for your small business.
Where do your customers hang out?
This is the big question every brand should always be asking, even brands with already established social media presences. Customer behaviors are changing more rapidly than ever before. Just a few years ago, Facebook was a hip place for the younger generation to hang out an post party pictures. Now you’re just as likely to find a bunch boomers liking photos of each other’s grandchildren.
There is no substitute for knowing your audience. A major piece of the knowledge you want to know about your customer is where they are hanging out online. That’s where you need to be.
It isn’t magic
While social media can be a good source of new leads, it’s going to take some time. A perfunctory or superficial foray into the social media jungle is more likely to produce more confusion than results. Jumping online once a day, when it is convenient for you, to check your Facebook stream and post a quick note about tomorrow’s sale is not going to cut it.
In addition to where your customers are hanging out online, you will also want to know when they are more likely to be online so your post can show up in their stream when they are likely to see it.
Some level of automation will also be necessary if you want to be successful with you social media strategy. Scheduling posts so that your customers and prospects, followers and fans, in different time zones will see them is an important tactic if you value your time. Manually posting to multiple networks could quickly become more than a full-time job. There are quite a few tools to facilitate automatic posting to various social media platforms.
If this seems insincere, think about your customers’ social media stream as equivalent to Google search results. If your site doesn’t show up in the search results when they are looking, they will click on a link to someone else’s site. Automation will enhance your chances of getting seen and getting leads to your site, which is where you want them to be.
As with everywhere else in life, there are unspoken rules when it comes to building relationships. This is especially true when automation is part of the picture. Rather than falling on your face or risking embarrassing your brand online, spend a little time learning the etiquette for the platforms with which you are getting involved.
One of the best ways to approach social media is the same way you would approach a new prospect in a face-to-face encounter. Instead of blasting them with pushy offers, let them do the talking and you do the listening. Regardless of what your product or service is, there are people online talking about it. Spending some time listening to what people are saying online will help inform the early stages of a social media strategy more than any other tactic.
Building a strategy for social media takes time and patience, that’s part of the investment, but that’s the way it is with relationships everywhere. Your social media strategy is a strategy for building relationships online. Invest the time and effort to establish rapport and prove that you are reliable, then you will start to see a return on your investment. Think of it as a return on relationship.