How To Grow Your Small Business Using Social Media
Are you a small business owner looking for ways to grow your business? Are you looking to attract more leads to your business, or have heard about Social Media Marketing, and now want to try it?
As a small business owner you face many challenges - limited capital, minimal support staff and having too much to do in what seems like very little time. So, how do you grow your small business without heavy investment in marketing and advertising? Answer - through the use of technology. Web 2.0 provides you with various tools and techniques that help you to generate leads and increase the exposure of your home-based business. Social media is one such tool. Here's all you need to know as a small business owner to begin increasing revenues using social media.
What is Social Media?
Social Media is a category of online media where people are talking, participating, sharing, networking, and bookmarking online. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, GooglePlus, and MySpace.
What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is using the above mentioned platforms to reach a new audience of consumers and create product brand awareness. By spreading word of a product from user to user, Social Media Marketing strives to gain greater legitimacy for a message because it is shared between trusted "friends."
Which Social Media Channels are most popular?
Studies show that Facebook & Twitter are most popular social media channels followed closely by YouTube and LinkedIn, GooglePlus.
Why should Social Media Marketing Interest me?
If you think this kind of Marketing is not for you, think again. These platforms offer a large bundle of benefits to small business owners. Here are some reasons why you should consider using Social Media for your business.
Exposure: As a small business owner you rely largely on network marketing to channel leads to your business - which, in turn relies on your interaction with people. This is the core notion of what Social Media is! But Social Media offers virtually unlimited opportunities to interact with people - millions of them! With this interesting form of marketing, your business is no longer limited to local leads; you will find leads coming in from a diversified geographic market!
Zero-cost: While other marketing media would be expensive, this type of marketing is relatively free, or requires negligible monetary investment. It's a great low-cost way to get your message across.
Improved web presence: Being on popular social media platforms strengthens your web presence. The more people talk about you on Facebook or Twitter, the greater are the chances of your business being found on relevant web searches such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing.
Direct contact with prospects: These platforms put you in touch with your customers directly. You can have one-on-one contact with them, know what they really want.
Go viral: Such marketing offers you the opportunity to go viral with your marketing. Think about this. You put up a video about your business on YouTube. 10 people like it, and five of them share it with their friends, who in-turn share it with 20 more people. This is known as "viral marketing," and it can be a very effective method to increase your lead generation.
What is a Social Media "game plan" and why should you have one?
A social media game plan is a process consisting of a few simple steps that can help you achieve your social media marketing objectives. The social media arena is large and you can get lost in it if you don't play by the rules. There's a lot of competition and you have to have a clear plan if you want to stand out of the crowd and get noticed.
Your ideal Social Media game plan
A typical game plan for your business should consist of these four steps
Build your network
Propagate your presence
Step 1 - build your network: The first step is to search for and add those users to your network whom you think fall into your target audience segment. When placing a request to add users to your network, it is always better to accompany such requests with a personalized message. You can also look for and join groups that pertain to your line of business. For example, if you are a business selling Health drinks and other health-related products, you could join groups where topics such as nutrition, diet or health are discussed. Such groups provide you audience for the products you have to offer. However, when in a group, do remember to ADD VALUE. Answer questions that you are equipped to answer, actively participate in discussions, be subtle and don't aggressively "push" your products.
Step 2-propagate: The next step is to announce your Social Media presence. You can do this by adding links to your social media pages on your website, e-mail signature line or newsletter, if you have one. You are out there with your business-announce it!
Step 3-stay connected: The third step is to stay connected with your fans and group members. Social media marketing initiative is easy to start, but requires effort to maintain. And like many networking efforts, results are usually not immediate. Acquire permission from group members and others on your network to send e-mails. You can then e-mail relevant content to people on your network. The key here is to send RELEVANT, VALUE ADDING content-not an advertisement of your products/services. If you are a health-drink selling company who is also a part of the diet and nutrition group, you can send links such as '10 Best Anti-Oxidant Rich Fruits' and then perhaps add an image and some information about your product, encouraging people to get in touch with you if they're interested. This approach will be better-received than just sending the prospects an e-mail flyer totally dedicated to your product.
Dos and Don'ts
While social networking is all about human interaction and cannot be strait-jacketed, here are some tips that will come in handy.
What you should do?
Add value to your contacts: Always add value to your contacts. Always! Provide them useful information, tips and other interesting facts that they can use. For example, Jane, a home-based business owner sells health drinks and weight loss products. So, it makes sense for her to provide her audience with interesting articles on the topic of weight loss.
Be consistent in your online participation: It is not a one-time effort. It is about building a relationship... and relationships take time. Be consistent in your social media communication. Have an interesting tweet/post/update at least every day. In some few cases, multiple postings a day are even better-but don't forget rule#1-add value. Your posts shouldn't sound like pointless ramblings or advertisements of your product/service.
Pay attention to what's being discussed: If you have joined a forum or a group, actively participate in relevant discussions. Use your specific, professional knowledge to help others. Contribute to add depth and dimension to a discussion.
Conversation is the key: As mentioned before, social media marketing thrives on relationships. To build a strong relationship with your prospects, you need to engage in a conversation with them. Maintain a 2-way communication between you and your audience. Take genuine interest in what they have to say and follow up on comments or observations that are made.
Thoroughly know the subject you are talking about: Position yourself as an expert on these platforms. But be sure that you know what you're talking about. Research if you aren't sure of something. Mistakes on these platforms spread quickly and damage the reputation of your business.
Personalize your interaction: It's advisable to personalize your interaction with your audience. Inquire about an event or occasion posted on a Wall, such as a recent trip, or "like" their vacation pictures on Facebook.
Portray your individuality: The biggest advantage small business owners have over large corporations is the fact that they are much smaller and haven't lost that real-person feel. Let your audience know the person behind the business. Make sure your interactions include a personal side!
Respond to your customers' grievances ASAP: Did you know that 88% of customers say unanswered complaints on social media sites deter them from doing repeat business? And deleting customer complaints is even worse! So make sure you resolve your customer's complaints on social media platforms immediately. Even if you can't resolve them, at least respond so that they know they're being heard. Acknowledge everything.
Mention your Social Media presence: Advertise your profiles. Always provide links to your social media profile in your website, blog, e-mails and even print materials. For websites and blogs, it's best to add Facebook and twitter widgets which provide a live feed of what's happening on your Facebook/twitter page, right there on your website or blog. Provide incentives or value adding information such as whitepapers or articles in order to encourage people to follow you on social media sites!
Monitor & moderate: Monitor your social media presence. Find out where your name's coming up online and in what context it has been used. A Google alert is the simplest way to do this, though there are many free tools available online to monitor your web presence. Also stay in-control of your social media pages. Read what others are putting up on your page and respond promptly.
Syndicate your Social Media content: Content creation takes time. So why not make the most of the content you have? Post your content on all popular social media sites and don't hesitate to re-use them. Turn a blog post into a link and put it on Facebook. Convert it into a video and add to YouTube and Facebook or turn it into a presentation and put it up on SlideShare. The aim is to get maximum exposure for your content.
What you should not do?
DON'T overtly push your products/services: Social media is a platform
where you build relationships, to create value. It's NOT an advertising venue. Your audience
will shun you if all you talk about is the stuff you sell. Think about it, would you talk to your family
and friends about the products you sell all the time? Of course not! Then don't treat your
social media audience any differently.
DON'T spam your contacts with pointless updates: OK, so now you added two new products to your line-up. While it's great to share the news, don't spam your contacts with ads. Put up a link to the new range of products; monitor who is interested and share information on a need-to-know basis.
DON'T have grammar and spelling errors in your posts: You are a small business out to create an impression. Don't spoil it through spelling and grammatical errors. Use spelling/grammar checking tools, but never rely solely on them. Proofread your posts before putting them up online. If spelling or grammar is not your strong suit, have someone else proofread your work before it goes out
DON'T fail to respond to requests for help in your area of expertise: If you are a part of a group or forum, seize every opportunity to display your expertise. Don't be a wallflower-actively participate in discussions.
DON'T let your profile get stale: Make sure your profile is frequently updated and that you offer something new. One mistake many small business owners make is creating social media profiles and then forgetting about them. Your social media efforts have to be on-going to bear results.
DON'T get distracted: There's a lot of distraction available online-especially on social media channels that can make you lose track of your productive hours online. Games, quizzes, forums and live-chats-while these can be interesting tools to attract prospect interest, focus on your goals. Otherwise you'll find yourself investing too much time and energy into activities that offer no returns to your business.
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