How Do I Use Social Media For My Small Business?

Social-media-for-public-relations1

When talking to business owners, I often hear them say that social media isn’t working for them, or that they don’t think it can work for them. If they don’t sell something on the internet, they feel like it is a touchy-feely waste of time.

I suppose that could be true, sometimes.

More likely, though, is that they have neither the time nor the inclination to make it work. The inclination issue, I can’t really help with. Someone who thinks Facebook is stupid is not going to be persuaded by me in a blog post. However, if using Facebook or Twitter or whatever just hasn’t seemed to click, or you feel like you’re wasting your time, then let’s talk.

Do I even need to be on social media?

I’m going to give you the real dirt here, folks. Your local business probably doesn’t need to be on all the social media networks. You might not need to tweet regularly. It is possible that you can ignore LinkedIn. Perhaps FourSquare, Yelp and Instagram are not right for your business.

But yes, in general, your business needs to use these tools. 

 

Here are my 7 rules for Local Business Social Media:

1. Don’t ignore social media altogether.

2. Stake your claim anywhere and everywhere.

3. Decide what platforms will be most comfortable for you.

4.  Connect what you will use to the ones you won’t use.

5.  Make a social media calendar and book the time!

6. Push EVERYTHING to your physical presence.

7. Be sociable with “your people.”

Got it? Great. Let’s take a quick look at these rules.

1. Don’t ignore social media altogether.

Twenty years ago, businesses wondered if they really needed to bother with a webpage. Weren’t they just for tech companies and multinationals? Can you imagine that scenario now? When I encounter a business that has been around for a while that does NOT have a website, I kind of want to submit them to Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Social media is not quite as revolutionary as the jump from no Internet to Internet, but it is still just as vital for businesses to have some kind of presence there. Simply because people expect it. They expect at least some sort of information to be available to them.

While it is possible that platforms will evolve, or even go away completely, the concept of connectedness is a reality of doing business.

2. Stake your claim anywhere and everywhere.

If you don’t establish a beachhead on the major platforms, someone else will. The ability to create personlized URLS (such as www.Facebook.com/LocalAndIndependent) is a great marketing tool, and you want to be able to claim your spot before a competitor, or worse, a disgruntled ex-employee. I recommend that you start on these platforms. (The bolded ones are my must-haves, and the non bolded are simply a good idea.)

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • Foursquare (if you have a physical location)
  • Yelp (if you have a physical location)

There are many other social media platforms. Some of them are perfect for particular types of businesses. If you find one you like, go for it.

Go create your business’s page, listing or profile on these sites. Make sure to at least put a few photos up, along with your website, phone number, address, and a thoughtful description of what you do and who you serve. Also consider including links to all your other social media profiles too.

3. Decide what platforms will be most comfortable for you.

Now that you’ve just staked your claim to a little piece of cyberspace, you need to figure out what will be practical for you to use. Consider these things when determining whether a platform is worth you devoting a lot of time:

  • Are you already using it for your personal life?
  • Does its main media lend itself well to your type of business?
  • Are your customers already active here?

Answering yes to any or all of these questions indicates that it is probably worth it to devote resources to this platform. If you don’t know how to use the platform, there are many resources on the web to help you get started. (Hey, I also do social media tutoring! Wow!)

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with one, give yourself a month to get used to it, then take on the next one. Trust me, you can do this, and you will be more connected this time next year than you ever thought possible!

4.  Connect what you will use to the ones you won’t use.

Many of the sites allow you to push content from one platform to another. Facebook is particularly good at this. On your Facebook page, you can have all your posts go to Twitter (or vice versa), as well as a tab on your Facebook page that automatically imports your most recent posts on Pinterest, Instagram, and others. One reason I love Instagram is that it allows me to share photos and check in with each post by selecting my Twitter, FourSquare, Facebook, Flickr or Tumblr accounts.

There are a number of tutorials on how to manage this, and not every platform will allow it. But if you are not going to focus on a particular platform, do try and find a way to push whatever content you ARE creating to the ones that are sitting idle at the moment.

5.  Make a social media calendar and book the time!

Decide how much time each week you can reasonably carve out in a week to create content, update your pages and do other tasks related social networks. Aim for an hour if you can. Then find a time on your calendar and book it! During this time each week, decide what you’re going to post, find the stuff you need in order to post it, and then schedule the posts using a tool like Hootsuite.

This will give you a solid base of thought-out activity on your pages or accounts. Then, throughout the week, if you discover something you’d like to share, you can either do it quickly, on the fly, or save it for next week’s time.

6. Push EVERYTHING to your physical presence.

Always remember that you don’t own these networks. They can be taken down, or you can be suspended or kicked off at any time. (Note my recent accidental screw-up with Twitter that has me suspended. Ugh.) So as often as possible, drive your fans, followers, pinners, viewers, etc, to your own website and in your physical front door. That is the main goal, anyway, right? To get feet in the door, and dollars in the cash register?

A couple quick suggestions for this:

  • Showcasing products or services through photos, then offering a complimentary trial or add-on in the accompanying text.
  • Have registration for your upcoming free event take place in your store.
  • Reward those who check-in online from your store, or post pictures from your store, with special deals, exclusive access to new products, or a big shout-out on your page.

And whenever you talk about something, remind them that the only way to get this awesomeness is by walking through your door.

7. Be sociable with “your people.”

People use social networking platforms because they want to connect. So connect with them!

  • Thank people by name for liking your page.
  • Respond to their comments as promptly as possible.
  • Learn from the feedback and show that you take proactive steps to carry the products they want, or offer the services they want.
  • Highlight your contributions to the community they live in.
  • Post photos of customers (with their permission, of course!)

These are just a few examples of ways that you can begin to connect. Our family’s bookstore has a few frequent commenters that always give us great feedback, share our posts or give us an ‘attaboy!’ It feels great to connect with the people you’ve just sold a book to and hear the feedback on how much they like your shop.

This is just the beginning of rocking social networking for local businesses!

Yes, clearly there is so much more that can be said. Much of it is just solid marketing. No tricks or gimmicks. However, local shops, restaurants and service providers have a significant advantage in the fact that social media humanizes the business. And nothing is more relatable or human than a small business trying hard to do right by their customers. Everyone loves that story.

Tell me in the comments what rule you think I left off or your experience implementing these rules!


Register now for this week’s Free Friday webinar! Fresh ideas, tips and decoding for small business social media.

About

Local and Independent is the home for everything for the Social Small Business. We offer hyperlocal consulting services for small businesses anywhere in the United States. We also have brought together a coalition of locally-owned, independent business in the High Desert of Southern California. And we offer online coaching and training to help small business owners and managers take full advantage of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, Yelp, Google+ and more.

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Welcome! My goal here at Local and Independent is to provide support to local business owners. Independent stores and small businesses have very different needs than big chains. As the owner of three (yes three!) businesses, I get it! So here it is - Local and Independent: Love for Local Businesses!

Welcome! My goal here at Local and Independent is to provide support to local business owners. Independent stores and small businesses have very different needs than big chains. As the owner of three (yes three!) businesses, I get it! So here it is - Local and Independent: Love for Local Businesses!

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