Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post written by Maria Peagler, a social media strategist and award winning author whom I met on twitter.
Small business owners: listen up! Before entering the social media landscape, have a strategy mapped out as to how you plan to use it. Here is your need-to-know primer on how to use social media to reach out to new and existing customers and grow your business:
- Identify your goal. Do you want to fill seats in your restaurant on slow nights, announce unused appointment times, or differentiate your brand from all the rest? Before you start in social media, know your purpose. That drives the rest of your decisions.
- Join a social network and listen. A client recently asked me what she should post on her local chamber’s Facebook Friday promotion, where local small business owners can share a short blurb promoting themselves. My advice? First, observe what other businesses are doing in that space, then improve on that. Why not shoot a thirty-second video and post it to the chamber page? I bet no one else is doing that.
- Learn how to use use social tools to communicate to customers regularly. If you’re posting on your Facebook page, ask for people to Like your business page or join your email newsletter. Asking clients to call you misses out on the opportunity to repeatedly communicate with them via social networks.
- Integrate your marketing, advertising, and social media. Include your URLs for your website and all social networks on your advertising, business cards, invoices, receipts, and door signage. And tell people about it. Social media is both an in-person and online relationship.
- Make your website social. Add a Facebook Like button to your webpage so people can connect with you in one click. Add your latest updates from Twitter to your webpage and add a YouTube video. Give clients the opportunity to get to know your business in multiple ways.
- Assign responsibility for social media. If you plan on doing your own social media, what will you give up or delegate to free up that time? Even if you are letting your staff handle social media duties, realize it takes time and you’ll need to redistribute their current workload.
- Set a schedule. You’re entirely too busy to remember to do it, believe me. Make a timeline to update your social media channels or meet with your publicist/soical media strategist. Stick to it. Even if you decide to do social media on your own, realize it’s wise to partner with a specialist for or special events or big promotions.
- Turn your challenges into opportunities. If you can’t afford TV commercials, shoot your own and post them on YouTube. Video has never been more affordable to small business, and DIY messages have authenticity slick commercials lack. Grab your Flip video camera and get creative.
- Have fun. Social media allows you to reach out and show your best self to your customers. Enjoy it and let them get to know you. One of my accounting clients plans on running accounting jokes on her Facebook page every so often to loosen up her firm’s image. She knows people don’t relish tax season, but her firm has a sense of humor and she wants to show it off.
Maria Peagler is the owner of Willow Ridge Media, a concierge publicity and social media agency specializing in small business. She’s an eight-time award-winning author and publisher, and writes about social media for small business at her Willow Ridge Media blog.