Social media can be the great equalizer for small businesses, allowing them to reach audiences is many more ways than they can with traditional media alone.  In addition, online, the size of a business is not nearly as relevant as how engaged the business is with their audience.  Yet many small businesses forgo using social media altogether or put only a halfhearted, inconsistent effort towards their social channels.  There are several ways of making social media work for your business and do so efficiently and effectively.

Only target a few social media channels

Every day, it seems like a new social media channel is popping up, promising more engagement than the last one. There are many fantastic social media networks out there, but that doesn’t mean as a small business you should be on them all!  Choose a handful that we can truly market through, and do so consistently.  How do you know which social channels are right for you?  If you’ve gone through the valuable efforts of creating a small business marketing strategy, your research should have illustrated where your target audience is at. For the sake of discussion, let’s say you found your B2B clients are active on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus; that’s where you should be targeting your efforts.  While yes, they may also be on Vine, Snapchat, YouTube, Vimeo, etc., really do the research and find out where the top engagement is for your audience and embrace those channels.

Social media is more than setting up a profile, but please set up a strong profile

It’s amazing how few companies really take the time to create an engaging profile. Your social media platforms are an extension of your marketing efforts. Just like your website, you want to put your best face forward on your social profiles, so do more than simply cut and paste the “About Us” page from your website. Take the time to talk about your unique value proposition, what makes you special, what you can offer clients, etc. Post those accolades and awards, and post some pictures so people can see who you are.  Does your social profile attract prospects?  Make them want to engage with you?  Don’t overlook this important step. Do it right.

Reach out and get connected

Now that you’ve got your 3-4 great social channels built out, now is the time to start connecting with people and other businesses.  No one is going to simply find you; you need to proactively connect, friend, like, etc. other people and other companies. And when you do, don’t use the standard intro text some platforms provide; customize it to the person you’re connecting with.  If you’re in the same industry, point that out.  Shared interests or groups?  Be sure to mention it.  Give people and companies a reason to start following or connecting with you and your business.

Share your expertise as well as others’ expertise

Give people a reason to like, connect or follow your company.  Share great information. Provide articles or other information that your target audience cares about. Do you know what problems your audience is facing?  Share information that addresses those issues or problems.  While you’re at it, make sure you’re not only sharing content you created but other subject matter expert’s content as well. Again, you’re looking to position yourself and your company as helpful, the ones to provide the information people need, so be sure to share, share, share.

Support others on social channels

Unfortunately, many companies don’t take the time to support other companies’ social channels.  Make it a habit to follow other companies and like their content. Write a helpful comment. Actually, get engaged with the content other people are writing. Too often, we spend so much time focusing on our own social presence that we forget to engage with other companies. This oversight can cost you valuable audience time, so be sure to take the time to support other companies in their social efforts.

There’s certain etiquette when it comes to social media

Make sure you understand how each social channel works; each one is very different.  Believe it or not, there are a few rules of engagement to follow when it comes to social media, and they vary by platform.  Here’s a handy little list of social media rules to follow. It’ll not only help you do better on social media channels, it’ll also help you avoid a few common mistakes newcomers make online.

Look at your analytics so you know when to post

Almost every social channel provides analytics so you know how well your channel is performing. Some are fairly basic, but others provide great insights such as Facebook Insights, which tells you which days and at what times your social channel is getting the highest engagement.  You’ll also get demographics info so you can see who is interacting with your social channel. LOOK at these analytics and make sure you’re taking advantage of the data to post the right content at the right time targeting the right people.

Social media can be powerful for small businesses, but only if you put the effort into making it successful.  Take the time to really understand what channels you should be on and what your message should be, and you’ll see great marketing success for your company.

Patty Hughes
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