It's no longer possible to completely ignore the effect social media is having on the business world. Social media has become an important part of any business's marketing strategy, especially for small businesses. A study from LinkedIn shows that 81% of North American of small businesses use social media to drive their companies' growth. Social media can be very effective, but you need to know the best way to utilize it.
1. Know Your Audience
Before heading out into the waters of social media, you'll want to first plan out your social marketing strategy. Knowing your target audience is especially important. Get to know everything that you can about them--what they think, how they think, their interests, their lifestyles, where they live, etc. Knowing more about your potential customers makes the steps that follow that much easier.
2. Use Multiple Sites
Finding the right social media platform can be a tad overwhelming. The best way to address the issue is to simply sign up for as many as you feel like you can handle. Facebook may be the most popular social network, but that's no guarantee it's the best outlet for finding your target audience. Branch out and try different social networks to account for maximum outreach. That means using networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, and many others. A diverse social media approach will help you find which outlets get you the biggest response.
3. Use a Social Media Manager
If using that many different sites seems like too much of a workload, the best thing to do is use a social media manager. Sites like Ping.fm and HootSuite allow you to manage all your social media accounts from one site. That makes managing multiple accounts that much easier. Try out free social media managers first, and if you like the experience, try upgrading to one that costs money and comes with more features and tools.
4. Post Visual Content
Content will largely dictate the type of following you have on social media. One of the most effective content strategies is to include visuals. There's a reason social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have exploded in popularity recently. Pictures are an easy way to grab people's attention and get much needed views. This extends to videos and infographics as well.
5. Engage With Your Followers
Once you have your outlets chosen and content ready, it's time to find friends and followers. If you know your target audience, finding people should be relatively easy, but once they're following you, it's important to keep them interested. Social media is a great way to get feedback from customers, but you also need to engage with them. Act like you're having a two-way conversation with them. Build relationships where they can trust you, and don't constantly push your products or services on them. Treat your audience as you would your real friends on social media.
6. Commit to Social Media
With your social network sites up and running, you need to fully commit to your social media strategy. Posting content every other week simply won't be enough. A few posts each day is usually a good bet. Committing to social media also means making sure every aspect of your small business knows the strategy and is ready to work toward your social media goals.
7. Be Patient
Even after everything is in place, you may not see big results right away. Don't let that worry you. As NuSkin explains, you need to understand that "your business is a building process and you may not have all the momentum you want immediately." A social media strategy is one that pays off over time. Be patient and eventually the results will speak for themselves.
Social media is no longer a possible route to grow your small business--it's a requirement. Learning how to use it effectively has become essential. By becoming proficient in it, you'll be able to grow your customer base and find success in a crowded market.
Image Source: Wikimedia