Ten Steps to Marketing Your Small Business through Social Media

Social media provides unique opportunities for marketing your small business. Leveraging the power of social media marketing is just plain smart, if you’re a small business with an equally small budget.

Define your small business marketing objectives

In descending order, most small businesses say their social media objectives are to connect with customers, enhance visibility and awareness, promote business offerings, share news quickly, and stay on top of market and industry news and trends. What are your aims?

Out-and-out selling is doubly repellent on social media. Instead, deliver entertaining or educational messages of value with links people want to follow to your website and point of purchase. Inspire their interest; don’t require it. In social media, sales come as a result of achieving all your other objectives.

Choose the small business name you’ll use with all social media

If you’ve already reserved your business name as your website domain name, use it as your social media user name. If that isn’t possible because the name is too long (Twitter restricts names to 15 characters max) or already reserved by someone else, use a nickname and use both consistently.

Sites such as Check Usernames, KnowEm, and NameChk provide free, almost instantaneous services for checking to see whether user names are available across social media networks.

Develop your small business social media introduction

To work your way into your users’ inner circle, introduce yourself in a way that causes people to take note. Your introduction should convey at a glance what your business does and for whom, the kind of information people can count on you to deliver, set a tone — whether humorous, controversial, or whatever.

Twitter limits introductions to 160 characters, and that’s a good limit for descriptions on other networks as well. Include keywords — the words or terms people use when searching for businesses like yours. If you’re the primary player in your business, include both your personal or business name.

Here are Twitter introductions for a couple of the marketing experts:

@ronjdub: I do things like Knodes & Snapgoods. Doer|Thinker|Speaker. I use technology to create new possibilities and I’m a funraiser. Yes, fun.

@JeanneBliss: Customer Crusader. President, CustomerBliss. Author, Chief Customer Officer and I Love You More Than My Dog.

Set up an online home base for your small business

Social media isn’t an end unto itself. Before getting involved in social media, establish the online home base to which you’ll direct the interest your social media activity generates: your website and/or blog. Including an online media center will help you become recognized as an authority in your arena.

Include the address for your online home base in your social media descriptions and in content that you develop and offer through social media posts. By sharing your address, you help people reach your business online while also building relevant inbound links to your website, which help improve search engine results for your business name.

Commit to building relationships with your small business customers

Social media can consume hours without a return on the investment if you don’t have a good marketing objective and plan. And even then, marketing participation can backfire. You absolutely have to enter social media networks with an intent to build relationships and interact with consumers, not to hawk yourself or your wares through promotional messages that intrude, annoy, and harm more than they help your business and brand.

Narrow down social media choices for your small business

Start by figuring out which networks your customers use, then commit to a plan that focuses on using those networks as a starting point. Where your customers are is where you need to be.

Beyond talking with customers, go to your competitors’ websites and see which social media networks they use. Then visit their social media pages. See what kind of followings they’ve acquired and the nature of the information they share.

Then consider your own target audience and marketing objectives. If you’re working to reach consumers, Facebook and Pinterest are strong choices. For business-to-business marketers, LinkedIn reigns. For general awareness development, Twitter and Pinterest are top contenders, while Facebook is great for building loyalty and customer service, and LinkedIn and Twitter help generate leads.

Consider other social media options for your small business

If your customers use mobile phone apps to check in and redeem purchase incentives at participating businesses, use location-based check-in sites like foursquare to create valuable — and free — social media visibility for your business, prompting customer visits with your own check-in incentives and reward.

Review and rating sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and industry-specific sites affect all businesses. If you plan on using video to spread your message, there’s YouTube. For photography, there’s Flickr. For books, there’s Goodreads. For an updated list of social media networks, visit Traffikd.

Encourage reviews of your small business

The best way to get good reviews (and drown out the noise of bad reviews) is to offer amazing products and services. To encourage reviews:

  • Display review site logos in your business and on your website so people know where to go to post reviews.

  • Directly invite your best customers to share their unbiased, honest opinions. Do not offer money or product for positive reviews.

Don’t blitz your review pages with a deluge of reviews posted over a short period — a signal to review sites that some incentivizing may be going on. Instead, cultivate a steady stream of reviews for the best results.

Keep cool when a bad review of your small business occurs

Sooner or later, someone is likely to post a bad review of your business. When it happens, do the following:

  • Look for a shred of truth in the rant. If the review points out even a tiny deficiency, fix whatever’s wrong. Then use your blog, Facebook page, or direct contact with the reviewer (if you can reach the person, which isn’t always possible) to describe the changes you’ve made.

    Research shows that disgruntled customers aren’t just placated by businesses that resolve their issues — they actually become proponents, sharing the positive outcome of their experience with others.

  • Don’t hit back. The more attention you give a bad review, the more people notice it and the more you inspire the rage of an already disgruntled person. Instead, push the review out of sight by encouraging new, positive reviews.

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