Social Media for Small Business
Part I: What Is Social Media and Why Your Small Business Needs It
The number of active users on Facebook could make up the equivalent to the fourth largest country in the world. What’s more? Twitter was named the number one word of 2009. At the same time, countless print media outlets are dying and closing their doors for good, proving there has been a drastic shift in marketing and communications. This is no longer a space solely for the early adaptors, quite the contrary – this space has become infiltrated by the mainstream. You probably already know this and have no idea where to start. I must say, time is of the essence – you want an established presence when this reaches its tipping point and becomes oversaturated with your competition.
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.
Let’s get started: What is social media?
Social media is a tool for web2.0. Basically, it’s a way to communicate with your audience and, more importantly, have them communicate back. Stimulating this conversation can encourage positive word-of-mouth marketing. The interactive web is so popular because of two very dominating concepts: PeLiMe (People Like Me) and collaboration. Both promote online community building, crowd sourcing, sharing, and connecting with those who reflect you and your interests. No one wants to be told what’s good for them – especially not from advertisers, corporations, or traditional media. We are bombarded with thousands of ads a day, it’s no wonder we are desensitized by them and the shift has been made to reflect more influence in real, unpaid, online reviews.
Quick game of Who’d You Rather: If you were a hiker looking into new shoes, how would you make your decision?
1) Scour each hiking equipment company’s site and see what they had to say about their own shoes?
2) Perhaps you’d casually wander into a sporting goods store only to encounter a pushy sales clerk who, unbeknownst to you, receives a kickback for each sale a certain brand of shoes that month?
3) Would you go onto the hiking community sites, forums and blogs to see what your peers can vouch for as tried, tested and true?
Alternatively, you can always hang out on the trails, wait for other hikers to pass by, approach them with the intention to poll them on equipment, and hope not to get mistaken for a Ted Bundy copy cat. Just as you don’t ask your dentist about his/her opinion on real estate decisions, or ask your realtor about the strange sound your car’s making, or your mechanic about your tooth ache – you should also be selective about the online communities you join. Consider it your online real estate – location is everything, so invest based on your needs, habits, lifestyle, and the message you want to convey to your family and friends.
Best of all – its free! For small businesses, this is a great addition to your marketing initiatives as it doesn’t take a lot of time. You mainly want to stimulate your existing community, create new communities, and add value through great conversation. At myhosting.com, we like to think there are three key strategies to utilizing social media for marketing, they are as follows:
Stimulating: Proactively listen, chit chat, ask questions and start conversations. Also, don’t forget to engage with your community by answering questions, replying to direct communication, responding to comments, finding conversation on similar subjects and adding your two cents (without spamming), and overall, increasing word-of-mouth and staying top of mind
Monitoring: This means everything from trend hunting to damage control. Find what people are saying about you, your brands, products and industry. Also, deliver customer service when people offer inquiries or shoot comments about their level of satisfaction. This could be a great tool to gauge with your customers, find out who your audience is and what they want.
Positioning: You know about your brand and industry, you are passionate about it – now what? Let the world know and let them consider you a thought leader by offering tips, advice and answers. Don’t just make this an opportunity to provide a hard sell on your brand – think of your audience and provide the answer to What’s In It For Me. A great way to do this is by offering unique content relative to your brand and industry through a blog.
Please look out for parts two and three of Social Media for Small Business
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