Social Media for Small Business
Part II: Tools and resources for your small business
This is a three-part special blog series that begins by answering: what is social media and how to get started? The second part outlines the various tools available and how you can utilize them for your business. We will finish with the infamous what not to do in a segment I call The Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media.
Social Media For Small Business Part Two: Various tools available and how you can utilize them for your business
Now that you know a little more about what social media is and isn’t, how to use it and what to consider, it’s time to decide whether it’s right for you and your brand.
As online media is a fairly new outlet for targeting your audience, you must be aware of the change in communication flow and equipped with the right resources to, as Gary Vaynerchuk would say, Crush It.
James Bishop, Manager, Consumer Product Marketing for TELUS, warns you must be prepared, “What happens with the feedback loop? If I tweet to Burton Snowboards, who is responding? Who is following up on a complaint? Or on praise? Marketers are typically geared to one-way messages as are business people, but with Social Media, businesses have to be just as prepared to listen.”
At myhosting.com, we have set a two-week to two-month probationary period on our marketing initiatives. If, after sufficient research and due diligence we decide to embark on realizing a marketing tactic via a social media tools, we give it up to two months before cutting our losses and moving onto other initiatives.
Through this tactic we’ve learned a lot – the good, bad and ugly in online marketing. But overall, we can say we’re constantly learning. We don’t blindly set up a Facebook Group simply because everyone’s doing it. We find value in some of these tools and not in others, we are quick to identify what is working and what isn’t, and we adjust from there. Everyone, even the so-called gurus, are learning as they go – so don’t feel bad about a few failures; after all, they are nothing if not a learning experience. Also, social media is not for everyone and that’s also okay.
Before you dive in to social media, let’s start with the basics: a website.
The most important thing you can do for your small business is set up a professionally designed website. DIY might be great for projects around the house, but in 2010 there is no excuse to have a novice site that looks as though you created it yourself. You have no idea how important it is. Think of your site as the ambassador of your company – what image do you want to communicate? “Professional and delivers the best possible product and experience possible” – OR – “Doesn’t really care, cuts corners and doesn’t believe in offering quality”? It’s easy to get started: hop over to a hosting company, like myhosting.com, register a domain and pick between one of the templates or opt to use one of their professional designers.
Do you have your professional looking site, have you read the cautionary fine-print and do you still feel as though you would like to pursue social media for your business? Here are some tips, tricks and resources that may be useful to you.
Meetup: If you need to create an event or meet up, there are tons of online resources to help sell tickets and manage your RSVPs, one of my favorites is meetup. Host a conference, media event, or special promotion for charity and share with the world with this tool.
Foursquare: A lot of small businesses have been creating huge success with this tool, especially in large urban centers like San Francisco. Basically, people login and tell their friends where they are and what their favorite spots in their city are. There are great opportunities for businesses to reward their establishment’s Foursquare Mayors with freebies and promos to thank them for representing you online and helping to spread positive word-of-mouth.
Twitter: A great tool to grow your community and engage followers, Twitter is also one of my personal faves. It’s easy – in 140 characters or less, let the world know what’s happening, show your personality and promote special offers.
Yelp: Building on the concept of what others have to say about a company or brand, Yelp is a seriously popular free tool used to find, promote and review local businesses.
Blog: Blogs are an important tool in creating an online brand, spreading news and commenting on your industry. You can provide original content or source free articles and simply copy and paste them. Your original copy can be written by you or you can pay someone to write original content for you, or you can ditch writing and instead create an audio podcast or video blog. The best part: it’s really easy to set up a blog on your site – myhosting.com for example offers a free WordPress installation to get you started.
Flickr: Sharing pictures could be a great tool for some businesses, especially if used in a creative way. You can put up pictures of new menu items and stock, favorite customers, charity initiatives, and the fun had by people who work there.
Facebook: You can create a fan Page and/or related group and connect with your audience here. One of the most valuable parts of Facebook is that once someone is your friend/fan/group member, all of your updates show up on their feeds, keeping you top-of-mind.
Wiki: Great for crowd sourcing and offering tips and answers to frequently asked questions. It’s really easy to set up a wiki on your site – myhosting.com for example offers a free media wiki plug-in to get you started.
Buttons: Making your content easy to share is possibly one of the most important aspects of social media. Adding buttons that allow users to easily bookmark and submit your articles to sites like Delicious, StumbleUpon and Digg helps get new eyes on your material, and to build awareness and communities.
Analytics: There are lots of different tracking tools for your site to tell you who visited, what search term they used, what they clicked on in your site, and what site/who directed the visitors to your site. Google offers a free analytics tracking tool, but there are also many options of paid tracking tools that offer more extensive data collection.
Additionally, I’m a huge fan of having an optimization company on retainer to strategically position web sites as far to the top of related search results as possible.
Please look out for Part III of our Social Media for Small Business, to be posted later this week. Miss Part I? Check it out Here.
Part I: What Is Social Media and Why Your Small Business Needs It
Part II: Tools and resources for your small business
Part III: Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media
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