Top 5 social media tips for small businesses

Following last week’s article about the importance of social media for small businesses, here are some tips to get you started with your social media strategy. Let’s have a look.

1. Have clear objectives

It is very important to write down the objectives of your social media campaign. Do you want to use social media to reach out to new customers? See what your competitors are doing? Respond to customer enquiries?

Because your objectives will influence how you use social media, you should not overlook this step.

Be realistic with what you expect: for example, unlike big brands, a small business cannot get thousands of followers in a matter of hours or days. Building a strong fan base takes time and effort.

2. Ask yourself the right questions:

Before starting your social media campaign, you need to be able to answer a few questions, such as:

– What is your budget for your social media efforts? It is perfectly possible to use free tools all along, but the time you
will spend on your social media strategy is an investment.

– How much time do you want to dedicate to social media every day? What matters in social media is consistency; you need to show your customers that you are often there for them, even if it’s just at 10 minute time intervals.

– What is your target audience? This is an important question as it will determine the tools which you may use. For example, if your target customers are professionals over 35, Linkedin may be a better tool than Facebook.

These are just questions to get you started. More questions will come as you start experimenting with social media. Some tools will work better than others, and you may decide to stop using one social network because it is not appropriate for your target audience.

3. Listen

This may sound obvious to you, but many brands fail in their social media strategy because they forget that they should listen to customers before trying to tell the world they have amazing products.

Some customers may be already talking about you, or about the products you sell, for better or worse. Take a step back to understand what people are saying and how you should respond to them. That way, you will be able to understand your target audience, what they like, what they do, how they say it. Social media is a powerful listening and monitoring tool, so make sure you spend some time listening before engaging.

For example on Twitter, use Twitter search or advanced search and type your name or keywords that relate to your industry.

Twitter

There are also some great free monitoring tools out there, such as Google Alerts or Social Mention. Try them out and see how you can benefit from them.

Social Mention

4. Engage

After listening, it is time to participate. You need to be very active, lively and converse often with your customers: answer their doubts, thank them for their feedback, comment on their updates or start asking questions are ways to converse, but there are many others.

Social Media Engagement

Nothing works better than the “test and trial” approach: try one strategy and see how your customers respond to it. Remember to engage with people without “selling” your product: if you always promote your company’s products without adding any value to the conversation, your brand will lose its reputation and credibility, so be careful.

5. Be human

When you post on Facebook or Twitter, you will converse with your customers. This is your chance to give your brand a voice. For example, you can write down your name when you give advice to customers, or post pictures of your team on Facebook or Flickr.

A good illustration of this strategy is Ford, who became a trusted brand on Twitter because the head of social media, Scott Monty, started conversing with people and always signed with his name (see below, SM).

Ford Twitter

Social media is not about showing the “corporate” side of your business (your customers can go on your website for this) but rather showing them your “human” side. Be yourself and be natural.

Extra tip: Make your customers feel special

Participating in the social media sphere should not only be about promoting your products, but there is nothing wrong about giving special deals to your fans and followers. You will create buzz, gain their trust and loyalty.

This is what Gap did a few weeks ago by giving its US and Canadian customers 40% off.

Facebook Gap

Do you have other tips to share? What worked best for you and your small business? Leave a comment below to let us know!