Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, the list of social media sites seems to grow inexorably. Many are created, but few withstand the ravages of time. The social media explosion which has characterised the past decade, can cause confusion for business professionals looking for new ways to market themselves online. Some may question whether or not they even need a social media presence. Others may simply have no idea about which one to use and how to use it.
For large corporations, these questions are easily answered. They have the resources to hire social media experts to manage their respective accounts. For small businesses with fewer resources, social media is often regarded as a luxury, rather than the extremely useful business tool that it is. So, if you are a small business owner, just where do you begin and what the hell do you do once you’ve begun!
Does Your Business Need Social Media
Ten years ago the question may have been ‘does your business need a website’. Perhaps ten years from now, the question of whether or not a business social media presence is essential, will seem equally ridiculous.
Social media sites can be a great way to market yourself, your company, your product, engage with potential customers and potentially increase sales. But in order to be effective, it takes time and time means money. If you’re getting more business than you can deal with and your staff are working at full capacity, then perhaps your social media marketing needs aren’t so important at this time. Only you can decide whether you have the resources and need, to use this powerful new marketing tool.
Which Social Media Tool To Use
With the plethora of social media platforms out there, it can be difficult to know which one is worth the time and effort in pursuing. Having a business presence on every single site is both wasteful and ineffective. You need to choose a social media channel which suits the requirements of your business. Twitter is an excellent tool for B2C businesses and enables you to communicate short messages to potential customers. If you are a hotel owner, for example, tweeting about special offers you may have for weekend stays is an excellent way to get your message out to people. Using Linkedin, however, wouldn’t be as effective as users of this channel tend to be professionals looking to network for business. Linkedin is therefore more suited to businesses in the B2B space.
How To Use Social Media In Business
Whichever social media channel you use, it is vital that you set some time aside each day to maintain it. There is no point in setting up a Twitter account if you don’t interact with your followers. For social media to be effective in your business, time and effort are required.
Business owners need to look at the longer term picture when implementing an effective social media strategy. The benefits don’t come overnight and will only materialise after time and effort. But the rewards of being able to interact with your customers on a one to one basis, showcase new products to a relevant audience and limiting the effects of bad PR, are priceless.
Treat your followers with respect and don’t spam them. For every 10 messages/tweets etc only one should be sales oriented. Otherwise, instead of attracting people to your business, you will just annoy them.
Listen and Learn
Take note of what your followers are talking about. They may be talking about your products, or products similar to what you have to offer. They may unwittingly give you clues regarding product gaps in your market.
If you choose one or two social media channels wisely, taking into account your particular business needs, and are willing to put aside the time to post updates and communicate with your followers, social media can be a very effective business tool. However, for some small businesses, which are already overstretched and working to capacity, social media will be more of a hindrance rather than a benefit.
Alastair Kane is a freelance writer and supplied this article for Strategic Internet Consulting, a UK based web development and online marketing company with expertise in international search engine optimisation