Best Social Media Practices for Small Businesses

Pepper Rutland's photo of facebook and scrabble piecesBefore the 1990s, companies relied mostly on print and broadcast media, such as television and radio, to get the word out about their products, services and/or progress. Prior to those inventions, word of mouth and various guerilla tactics were the focus. Nevertheless, with the advent and subsequent ubiquity of the Internet, businesses saw the importance of getting online. Those who weren’t early adopters, relying still on the aforementioned tools to reach customers and supporters alike, learned quickly that “the net” could not be ignored. Today, more than half of small business have their own website. However, as trends continue to evolve beyond a mere home for your business, the need for web presence via social media has become just as, if not more, imperative to the success of business owners, especially smaller businesses. Yet, while most have at least taken steps to create a social profile, not many use it to their full advantage.

Nearly two years ago LinkedIn reported that 81% of small to medium business had some form of social media. Why the remaining 19% hasn’t caught up is a concern in itself, but that’s not the primary issue at hand. Of those which do have a profile, approximately 95%, virtually all, of them use it for marketing reasons alone. While this makes sense given the wide reach of such platforms at little to no cost, simply using the space to announce deals, sales or new products is akin to handing out flyers on the corner. You may reach a lot of people, but it doesn’t guarantee connection nor interest. Therefore, creating a strategy for engaging your social media audience is key. Here are tips for doing so.

1. Create Quality Content

Consumers are exposed to about 5,000 ads per day, in comparison to 2,000 in the same time, just 40 years ago. The oversaturation and overpopulation of advertisements have led many to either tune them out or block them altogether. That said, using your business profile to do just that creates an automatic division between yourself and the client/customer you’re trying to reach. Instead, create and publish content that is informative and relevant to your product or service. As a result, your business comes across as an authority on related subjects, and appears to onlookers as a brand that is interested in its customers, not just selling to them.

2. Interact With Followers

Use social media to be social. Just as it would be rude to only talk about oneself and never respond to any questions, comments or inquires, in-person, the same applies online. Perhaps there is no dedicated social media person on staff, thus making it difficult to respond to every single interaction; however, merely acknowledging the message goes a long way. Such can be done with a simple like or share on many social platforms. And when it makes sense to do so, follow back.

3. Use Analytics Tools

The larger and more popular websites provide very specific and helpful data, including how many people viewed a post as well as liked and/ or shared it. Not only do these details provide insight about the value of your content to your audience, they can provide key information about how many people you’re actually reaching and optimal times for doing so.

4. Be Channel Specific

As the old saying goes, there’s a time and place for everything. Each business owner or dedicated social media specialist would do well to note best practices of each platform. For example, content on Twitter must be shorter, to the point, and use of hashtags bolster the length of your reach. On Facebook, content can be a little longer, more in depth and media heavy. Hashtags are not as effective, though available, and click through content, such as a link to an external website or presentation, are normal. Using a cookie-cutter approach to all platforms only diminish the effectiveness of your message and goals online.

As we enter this new year, there is an even greater incentive to try new things. With over 2 billion users on social media, an incredible opportunity exists for all businesses to not only acquire new customers but to retain them. Regardless of your product or service, your audience is online. Your competition will certainly be doing all they can to reach them. Beat them to the punch.