Guest Post by Alicia Ranch-Traille
For a small business, the successful use of social media involves a bit more than simply "liking" a few things on Facebook. If you want to make an impact on the social media scene, you'll need to run your presence like an election campaign. You'll want to appeal to multiple networks, track what people are saying about you and prompt those people to leave a positive review every time they check out of your site.
If that sounds like a lot of work, it's because it is a lot of work. Luckily, there are a ton of programs out there that can help you manage your social presence and promote your company without losing your mind. If you're running a small business, here are 5 tools that are definitely worth a download.
1) Monitter. Monitoring your company's Twitter presence can be a pain, especially if you use only the default search tool to study your mentions. This is where Monitter comes in handy. Monitter is like a turbo-charged search engine for Twitter. This free, web-based program allows you to track your mentions, your hashtag trends and even your competitors' trends over a comprehensive multi-column interface, all in real time. So if you want to see who's tweeting about your company, just enter your Twitter handle, grab yourself a cup of coffee and watch the hits come rolling in.
2) Social Q&A. The only thing better than a positive review of your company is a positive review of your company that your customers share with their entire social network. Social Q&A by TurnTo Networks encourages this sort of goodwill by prompting customers to answer a series of questions through an interface during checkout. They can read other customer reviews to help them make a purchasing decision, or they can post their own reviews and send them out over multiple social networks with the click of a button. Since it's so very easy to chime in, your customers are much more likely to leave positive feedback - feedback that all of their friends will see.
3) Sprout Social. Sprout Social is an all-inclusive management suite for your different social networks. Not only can you monitor your mentions on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp! and more, you can schedule posts and view detailed analytic reports as well. There's even a "Discover" feature that will suggest who your company should follow or unfollow. You may be able to find a more comprehensive management service out there, but with prices starting as low as $9 a month, Sprout Social is perfect for small businesses with a small budget.
4) Workface. What's the point in being social if it takes you a year and a day to respond to your customers? Don't make them wait for you to respond to an email, tweet or Facebook post - be available when they are with live chat. Social media, ironically, has made the Internet less personal. Online sales have become more about facts and figures than honest human relationships. Bring the "face to face" back online by putting a real, human voice behind your brand with Workface. It adds an additional layer of realtime communication on top of your existing social media, making it easy for customers to reach out to you.
5) Disqus. Disqus is a must-have addition for any small business blog. This nifty, free service turns your comments section into a social conversation. After users create a Disqus account, they can take the comments they leave on your blog and repost them to their various social networks. They can also "like" other comments and subscribe to your blog as well. Disqus even comes with its own spam filter to keep your comment section free of those bots that claim that they make "$79 an hour from the comfort of home!"
Don't lose your mind trying to manage your small business's social media presence - sign up for one of these services and let them do the heavy lifting for you instead. They're easy to use, and if you own a small business they'll certainly fit your budget. And the most important reason to jump in? With these tools, you'll spend less time staring at your computer screen and more time doing what you do best: running and growing your business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alicia Ranch-Traille is a freelance writer and mother of two. She writes sharp, smart articles to help small business owners navigate the often-tricky waters of social media. She's written for GalTime, Business2Community and of course, Workface!