By Caron Beesley, Community Moderator
Small-business social media use has become a barometer of our times for industry analysts who are eager to gauge the impact the economy and new technologies have on the way small firms do business.
And despite a few sluggish years, the latest data suggests that small businesses are turning to social media in droves in an effort to increase sales (source: Forbes and Manta). The problem is, no matter how much time they spend, some small businesses are not reaping rewards.
Why is this? The problem is that small businesses are expecting leads and sales, and while social media can definitely be a lead generator, Forbes reports that the expectations that small businesses have of social media is completely out of whack with how they are actually using it. Setting up a social media page, then posting promotions and events and hoping the sales will follow just isn’t going to cut it. Social media is not another direct marketing channel; it’s a patience game. It’s a place to answer customer service questions, to get to know your followers and build community.
But the question, “What should I be doing on social media?” is one that won’t go away for small business owners, eager to take advantage of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. So if you’ve ever asked what your business should be doing on social media, take a step back and consider whether it’s actually a good fit for your business at this point in time.
To help you decide, here are some signs that social media may not be right for your small business:
Do you have a website?
Do you have a website to act as a hub of information and back up your social media presence? Social media should never be considered the be all and end all of your online presence. If a user can’t find out more about who you are or what you sell online, then don’t get social. In addition, your website functions as a repository of other content that supports your social media strategy – blogs, white papers, and ebooks should all be housed on your website and then amplified and shared on social media networks. Your website is also home to lead capture devices that you promote on social media such as your newsletter sign-up page, customer surveys, event registration pages and so on.
Bottom line: a website lends your business and your social media presence credibility. Build that first before you get social.
How are your other marketing activities doing?
Think of social media as the outer circle of your marketing efforts (your website is at the core). Between the two, there are a number of marketing must-haves that you should put in place before you get going on social media. Social media may be free, but it only works as part of a wider, integrated marketing strategy.
- Get your logos and brand imagery in order – Make sure you have and are happy with your company logo and any other brand imagery that you use and that they are implemented consistently across all your marketing materials. Sounds obvious, but growing small businesses can sometimes go through frequent iterations of their corporate look as they try to establish a brand identity. Google Plus, Facebook and Pinterest are highly visual, so it’s important to get it right.
- Claim your profile on search listing profiles – If you are a local business, claim your listing on Google Plus, Bing, Yahoo, Yellow Pages, etc. When people search for your business or the types of services you offer online, these listings are likely to show up prominently and help you get found. Add basic information to build out your profile. Don’t forget to add your personal profile to LinkedIn, too.
- Start a newsletter – eNewsletters are a great way to connect directly with those who want to hear about your business. You have a captive audience there; your message is delivered to their inbox and allows for a deeper conversation. It’s also a useful tool to help you spread the word about your social media presence.
Do you have the staff and resources to support social media?
Social media is a commitment that you shouldn’t take lightly. It may be free, but if you are going to be successful at it, you need to commit the right resources. Getting online once or twice a day and posting an update isn’t enough. If you want social media to work for you as a lead generator, then you’ll need to throw some headcount at it – someone who can write blogs, search and listen to what is being said about your industry, your business and your products or services. Someone who can gauge and track what type of content people are responding to.
I mentioned earlier that answering customer service questions is going to be a big part of your social media efforts. This means that whoever is monitoring and posting content needs to be qualified – they don’t need to be a social media whiz, but they should know something about your company, its values, goals and customers.
Furthermore, be prepared to involve them in team meetings so they are informed about all elements of the business. In the same vein, make sure that each department – from sales to billing to product development – are aware and engaged with your social media efforts so that they can provide the appropriate responses to issues, learn from feedback and hear what the customers are saying.
Social media is not just some throwaway marketing strategy; it’s a public face of the company. So be prepared to understand the commitment you are making.
- Don’t Be a Social Media Marketing Skeptic – Learn Where and How to Start.
- 8 Ways to Strengthen Your Email Marketing Offers and Calls to Action
- How to Use Social Media to Do a Better Job of Customer Service
About the Author
Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley