These days, the first place most small business owners go when arriving at the office isn’t to the coffee machine, the mailbox or the news, it’s Facebook (or Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Pinterest or…). The reason is simple: 91% of online adults use social media regularly. According to The Social Media Report 2012 at any given minute of the day 100,000 tweets are sent, 684,478 pieces of content are shared on Facebook, 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, 3,600 photos are shared on Instagram and $272,000 is spent by consumers online. People are connecting to social media sites at home and, more and more, on their mobile devices. This means your customers, your friends, your professional contacts, and your potential clients are all out there ready to hear from you.
Before you leap into the land of social media and sign up for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Digg, StumbleUpon, Google Plus+, Pinterest, Reddit, Del.icio.us, Squidoo, tumblr, or the plethora of other sites available here are some tips to remember and pitfalls to avoid.
1. Don’t be afraid
Many of our social media wary clients talk about the time, energy, and professionalism of using Facebook, Twitter, etc. “I don’t have the time and I don’t know what I would say,” is a common refrain. Well, social media is here to stay and has been proven to be one of the best ways to market your business. It is worth making the time. No matter what your business is, you can promote it through social media. And, you can promote it through ALL social media. There are millions of articles and resources for you or you can always chat with us about getting started. We can help you with everything from signing up to creating a look to posting for you.
2. Set your goals
Like any other marketing plan it is good to start out with some goals in mind:
- “I would like to connect with other professionals in my community”
- “I would like to give my clients (and prospective clients) a better idea of what I do”
- “I would like to increase traffic to my website”
- “I would like to create an online community”
- “I want to answer questions and get feedback from clients via social media”
Whatever your goals, write them out and revise them over time.
3. Set aside time every day
Schedule the time into your day (at least once) and it won’t feel so monumental. 5 – 15 minutes a day should be all you need to update your accounts and interact with your social media community. If you are likely to spend more time than that and are worried about taking time away from other tasks, simply set up a timer to remind you when to return to your other jobs.
4. Social media is your friend, not just your ad agency
Interact with your community. I cannot stress this point enough. Companies that simply post up their own business news and promotions don’t do well on social media. You will need to see what others are up to: repost, retweet, repin… Post up articles written by other people, comment on photos and other posts. Of course, you want to talk about what you are doing but the golden rule is: 80% of what you talk about isn’t specific to your business and 20% is. Your social media world should simply be an extension of the real you with your many diverse interests.
5. The more the merrier (as long as you can keep up)
If you only have a LinkedIn account because that feels the most professional or Facebook because that is what you are most comfortable with or Twitter because 140 characters is just right, consider what you are missing. There are millions of people on each of these. The more places and times you can interact with potential clients, the better.
6. Use a social media management tool
If you have a lot of social media accounts and, even better, a lot of interactions through social media, it could be worth spending a little money on a social media management tool. The least expensive of these are: Jugnoo, Viralheat, and HootSuite. All of these programs allow you to manage multiple social networks, schedule posts, messages and tweets, track brand mentions, and analyze your social media traffic.
7. Use the power of images
A picture is worth a thousand words so you can save yourself a lot of time by posting up photos, inspirational quotes and marketing posters. People are more likely to stop and look at a beautiful photo or poster promoting your upcoming workshop than just plain text. These don’t have to be your images either. You can repost, retweet, repin anything that appeals to you and that you think will appeal to your followers.
Another important aspect to images on social media is your permanent images. It is worth having professional photos taken and getting a professional banner and background made up. Compare these two profiles: Which businesses would you approach?
8. Have some fun
It’s OK to show some personality. That is what makes social media so powerful and helps connect you to your followers in a virtual world. Run contests, ask questions, put up funny photos, share a story from your life that others can relate to. When choosing who you will follow, choose some businesses or people that you know will make you laugh, make you think, and inspire you. Then, try to pass that along with your own posts.