As business owners, we hear a lot of chatter about how social media can help build your business into some international mega company. To be honest, for most of us, we simply want to find a way to reach our community, and maybe a bit beyond. I also see blogs every day that talk about how someone turned their little website into a million dollar idea. I don’t doubt that both of these concepts are possible; the internet is a strange and unusually powerful tool for a lot of things, from viral video to blogging, cat videos to opinion pieces. The key is finding a way to leverage some of that energy to your benefit, and without costing a fortune or absorbing your valuable time.
Below I outline five simple rules to follow for your business-centric social media. Will they make you an international superstar? I can’t say that, but what I will say is that if you follow these rules, you WILL enhance your business exposure, and thus your customer base within a few months. So here we go:
1. Website/Social Media – A marriage of efficiency
I often use a metaphor that illustrates the problem with building a website and doing nothing with it. Imagine you spend a lot of money on making the most beautiful flyers for your company, but when you get them, you simply set them on the corner of your desk and wonder why nobody is coming into your business. Building a website is an important step in marketing your business, but doing it alone isn’t enough. The idea behind a successful social marketing campaign is drawing visitors to your site in any way possible, because there they can see your products and services. At the same time, you need to keep your site alive with fresh content, then share that content on social media platforms, drawing viewers back to your site. It’s not enough to put fun posts on Facebook if they don’t link to your website. The idea is to use social media as the doorway to expose potential customers to your business. When done right, it could mean a huge boost in traffic, which means more people exposed to your products.
In a perfect world, any posting you do actually happens on your website, in blog format, and then is shared on Facebook. Usually an excerpt of your blog appears there, but to read it all, the reader has to click the link, which takes them to your website. This ensures fresh content on Facebook, but also consistent traffic to your website, where your products and/or services are outlined. Sharing only on Facebook, with no link, means people never see your products. This is why it’s key to include a link back to your website.
Your website doesn’t have blogging capability? Then when posting on Facebook, make sure to at least add your url at the bottom of the post (such as www.BigfootRobot.com). this will display your website url and a picture. You can exchange the picture for anything you like underneath (we suggest adding a picture that matches the post you are writing). Now customers have direct access to your site! One final note: After the link is displayed, you can delete the url. It’s no longer needed.
2. Post regularly, but not all the time
People often ask how often you should post to social media. All you have to do is ask yourself, “how annoying is it when someone on my Facebook timeline posts a bazillion times a day?” The key to social media for business is to be engaging, not annoying. That means posting as often as you like, as long as each post is unique, informative, not preachy or sales-y (that’s not a word) and most importantly, interesting to your customers, not you. Ideally you should post a couple times a week at least, once a day if you can manage it, and only more if you really feel “the people have to know”. It’s hard to come up with compelling content, so don’t waste it all fast. Spread it out, and people will see you as a source of information.
3. Make it personal, but not too personal
There’s nothing worse than someone sharing too much about themselves on social media or on a website. Sure, a personal touch is important, and a successful marketing campaign for a small business relies on your customer knowing you, not just your products. But remember, whatever you say, people will tie into your business. If you are too political, there will be a segment of the population that might take offense to your beliefs. If you post too many cat videos (and you don’t run a cat adoption agency), people might discount you as frivolous or silly. There’s a fine balance between personal and not too personal, but keep in mind that you’re trying to boost your business, so appealing to as wide an audience as possible is important.
On a similar note, remember that with Facebook, your personal account is tied directly into your business account. If you want to promote your business in groups, you can’t join from the company. You must join personally. So when you thought that your “unique” views on cat hoarding was confined to just your friends, you may not realize that people will see the post you shared from your business on your favorite group was from “that crazy cat lady”. While we all love Facebook for it’s ability to keep you connected, or let you vent your feelings to a large, unknown audience, the truth is you’re a business owner. You have to set aside your soap box for the good of your business, and your bottom line.
4. Support others, and they will support you
You might think promoting another company’s business is bad business. But in today’s economy, finding ways to cross support can be crucial to the impression you make on the public. With social media, it pays to share posts from competitors if they provide valuable information that you can agree with, or if they are offering a (noncompetitive) service that you recommend. You certainly don’t want to send your potential customers to a true competitor, but by showing you are an interactive part of the business you offer, not just YOUR business, you make customers feel there is more to you than just grabbing at dollars.
Better yet, explore ways to cross support complimentary businesses. The big companies do it all the time, such as the recent ads you see for HP and Disney (for Star Wars), or the way Kmart and Martha Stewart co market their brands. On a smaller scale, finding local businesses that offer services your customers need, that you can market with your offerings can help build both businesses in a big way. And all this can be touted on social media, showing the public that you play well with others, and putting a positive, constructive face on your sales efforts.
5. Consistency is king, above all
Like working out, if you do it every once in awhile, it’s not doing you much good. Whether you put up the perfect post or just something random about your business, the important thing is to put up SOMETHING once a week at least. Nobody really can say what the best frequency of posting is, but we do know not posting is bad. If you’re thinking this tip is a lot like number 2, it’s because we can’t stress this enough. Post regularly. Let people know you are there and they will remember you.
Many people ask us if they need all the social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, LinkedIn… the list goes on and on. The truth is, all of them can bring something to your business, but if you can’t consistently post on every one of them it’s better not to have any. Our best suggestion? Pick one or two and focus your efforts there. Later, if you find time, or discover that a number of your customers use the newest thing, you can always pick it up then.
The most important thing to realize is that you have great power to boost your business using social media. Make a plan, follow these rules and you may find that you’ve become an internet guru yourself!