Getting a Handle on Social Media
According to a survey sponsored by LinkedIn, 81% of small businesses now report using social media to drive growth. And, with 46% of consumers stating they look to social media before making any major purchase, it’s obvious that social media has become the next, major marketing platform. Start-ups, however, are still struggling to fully understand the power of social marketing. I talk to a lot of new small business owners, and more often than not, they aren’t sure where to even begin when it comes to social marketing. Do you just copy the big guys? Or post picture after picture of cats doing funny things? And how do you even begin to measure ROI? If you count yourself among the many entrepreneurs that are a little put off by new marketing, don’t worry about it – it’s not that hard to get a handle on social media.
Set reasonable expectations
Social marketing is not the secret to unlocking millions in revenue. Rather, it’s an inexpensive, useful way to connect with your customers and tap into new markets. Still, wanting to track ROI is understandable; just remember that there is no standard conversion, like every re-tweet gets you another dollar. Social marketing has less to do with direct sales, and more to do with increasing brand recognition and boosting SEO. Both of those will, eventually, increase sales, but when you first start out, it can feel like you’re talking to an empty room. At the very least, make sure you have a presence on the big three – Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. If you run a B2B company, a LinkedIn profile is useful as well. Then start talking to people. Find other industry experts, talk to them, and engage with the wider community. Along with updating and monitoring your social feeds, you should be writing blog posts and plugging new, well-written content. Give users a reason to follow you, and they will. Trust me, it doesn’t take long before people begin telling you they’re seeing you everywhere.
Use social media to talk to people
Social media is, first and foremost, a place to communicate with your customers. It’s perfectly acceptable to use it to plug sales and market your business, but remember that you can’t see social media as a digital billboard. People will want to interact with your profiles. I’ve gotten plenty of compliments and general comments on my posts, and its actually pretty fun to talk to people through a medium like twitter. You should also take the initiative and talk to other people in your industry. Social marketing is fast becoming an indispensable networking tool. Share content, and interact with people. You’ll find your presence grows way faster than if you use social media solely to flood your followers with updates about your company.
Keep a thick skin
Finally, don’t ever let your anger get the best of you. I understand how helpless a business owner can feel online since you want your web presence to be as close to spotless as you can get it. After all, plenty of potential customers are going to be looking at these profiles. But a site like Facebook isn’t the best place to resolve a problem. I’ve seen too many small business owners goaded into a public battle on social media, and they always regret it. When you receive a complaint, try as hard as you can to bring the problem off of your profile. Look them up, send them a private e-mail, ask them to call you – anything to keep from giving this issue more public attention than it needs.
Social marketing can be confusing. It’s still a relatively new field, and few entrepreneurs have any sort of new media training. But you can handle it, as long as you stay patient, produce good content, talk to people, and keep a cool head. Your early presence will be small, but if you network and share good, useful content with the right people, it will begin to grow. And a solid, positive, active social presence is exactly what your potential customers are going to want to see.