In 2008, I started my consulting business and relied heavily on traditional business tools and communications. A more formalized approach to conduct and communicate my business services to clients and prospective business partners was implemented. In fact, social media was not on my radar and therefore, was not part of my business model.
Social media was still in its infancy, didn’t know much about it and I didn’t understand its potential business impact and value. Many entrepreneurs didn’t understand how social media could quickly deliver and amplify key messages while supporting overall brand positioning. In fact, my son encouraged and taught me how plan, develop and integrate as part of my overall business approach.
In 2016, social media is now an integral part of the business landscape. Now, I do understand the importance of technology and how it enables you to position your business and deliver key messages effectively on a real-time basis. It also provides a platform to develop and connect with potential clients and existing customers by driving key, relevant messages which are based on their business challenges.
In this digitally-savvy era and as a small business owner, it is critical to develop and implement a social media strategy focused on communicating and key messages while responding to your business base in real time and in ways they want to be communicated. Business is now changing at the speed of technology and, as an entrepreneur, it is essential to remain relevant and on pace with this change..
Without social media, you’re placing your business at a disadvantage. While personal interactions are key, social media can help round out the total experience and interaction while enhancing customer relationships.
I recently discussed this platform with Brenda Meller, Assistant Vice President, Marketing, Walsh College, who’s also a social media/marketing consultant, and asked her for advice on integrating social media into your business.
Lee: What advice would you give to an entrepreneur starting out on social media?
Meller: If you’re starting a business and thinking about getting active on social media for your business, you should. I would encourage entrepreneurs to keep in mind there is little distinction between your personal and professional use of social media. In other words, your worlds will collide and you should embrace it rather than try to separate your personal and professional use of social media.
- Get on LinkedIn and get active. Build your profile. Use the site to connect with and engage with others.
- Set up a Company Page on LinkedIn and a Company Page on Facebook. Consider Pinterest if it fits your business, and dabble in Twitter if you can make the time.
- Ask other entrepreneurs for their advice on social media. What worked for them and why? What didn’t and why?
Lee: Which SM tools should small businesses have and why?
Meller: I wouldn’t suggest investing in any subscriptions when you first start a business, although an email service like ConstantContact may be worth a small investment if you wish to communicate with your customers and prospects. Instead, focus on all the free sites, free tools (like Google Analytics, Google Alerts), and make use of any free webinars to educate yourself. Always use the free trial version first, and don’t provide a credit card to get access to a free trial. You should launch a website using a service like Wix or Weebly and purchase a website from GoDaddy or something similar that is not very expensive, unless you have an ecommerce site. Over time, you may find tools like Hootsuite to be helpful in managing your social media posts.
Also, ask around. Other small businesses will give you advice on what works for them.
Lee: What are a few social media dos and don’t’s?
Meller: A few dos:
1) Be active on social media. Pick the networks where your customers can be found, and spend the time there, 2) Find and follow social media leaders. Find people and businesses who are active and seem to “get it” and follow them. Engage with them. Let them inspire you, and 3) Focus on continually learning social media. The sites continually evolve and change, and there are always new features to learn. For example, I just read an article about how Facebook is changing its algorithm yet again so company page posts won’t show as often as personal posts: http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-networks/facebook-news-feed-update-posts-friends-get-priority-over-page-content
And a few don’ts:
1) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Chances are, others have your same concerns. You are not alone. Twitter is a great place to find experts to offer advice. 2) don’t obsess over likes. Instead, focus on engagement. A comment or share can be much more powerful than a “like.”, and 3) Don’t avoid social media because you are too busy, tech averse, too old to learn, don’t have a smart phone, or just not interested. Social media provides you access to a broader potential audience, plus people “opt in” to these social network for news and information. If your audience will be looking for your business on the web, you should supplement your website with social media. Then, use social media to point people back to your web. I heard once you should spend 10% of your time on social media creating new content, and 90% of your time sharing that content. (not sure of the source)
Lee: Future trends, tools gaining in popularity businesses should consider?
Meller: Even though I consider myself really active in social media, there are always new sites popping up. I watch my social media mentors and idols to see what they are doing and where they are spending their time. People like Terry Bean, Paul Chambers, Dave Linabury, Tracy Morgan, and Erin Rawlings. Yes, I now have a Snapchat account and I have no idea how to use it. I hear there are a few new video apps gaining traction and I’m still watching to see where they go. Seems like Google+ is on its way out.
Content marketing is still huge. The focus is on educating versus selling. Consider giving potential customers some free advice via content marketing, which may in turn lead to new business.