Whee! Social Media!
by Shauna Millar
I am sure you have heard the term “social media” and may even be out there ‘connecting’ in one form or another. The question you might be asking yourself as a small business owner is: do I need to be a part of it?
The first thing to know, is that in order to be effective with ANY social media, you need to be active. As an example, if you have a Blog, you should be posting at once a month. With Facebook, you should be posting once a week, and with Twitter, once a day. (Remember these are just minimum requirements – in other words “at the very least.”)
The biggest problem with social media is knowing which one(s) to use. No matter which one (or which 15 you choose), you need to be actively involved in the community to get any sort of return. (This is another time investment for you, so you need to decide carefully in order for get the highest and best return on your time. Don’t get involved in everything that is out there unless you have time or an employee(s) you want to dedicate to doing it.)
The following is very brief “over-view” of the top few:
Facebook (FB) is the most well known. In my opinion, it is more of a peer-to-peer community – your friends, family and associates. This is not to say that it is not an effective way of advertising your business. Think of it more like “word of mouth.” Your friend tells a friend, who tells a friend. People “like” you. As a business, you NEED to get those “likes” in order for people to see the business page – not just your personal profile/information. So you need to send all the people you know to get the word out OR you can pay Facebook to send ads out to people on their site.
Again, if you are familiar with Facebook, these ads will appear on the right hand side of the page – along with all those other ads – that you may have someone click on or not. You can also use your website to link to your FB account so people coming to your site will help get the word out. I have heard people say that it is a very effective method; I can’t speak to this one way or another, as I just recently signed up on FB. (My information comes mostly from lots of research and some friends who have used it!)
Twitter is basically a sentence you send out into cyber-space for your “followers” to read. [Followers are those people who come across something you have tweeted and like it or a follower’s follower.] It’s a way to keep in touch with your customers (and again, friends, family and acquaintances.)
I do have a twitter account and have only recently begun to use it as a marketing tool. For the most part, I use it to follow certain companies/people. Not too long ago, they added the ability to use photos in your tweets, which helps to bring in more interest. Again, I am not currently using it as much as I could; I don’t have the time to send a message every time I do something. (Such as getting ready to post an article – yes, I should do that! Maybe that will change soon!)
Google+ is another form of social media. You have your circles, your followers, etc. A lot like FB; however, it seems to have a broader business community. I am part of several circles dealing with website information, so I can keep up with what is going on out there in the world.
YouTube – can be a very useful tool. It is used often and can be a benefit to your company if you want to get information out. Youtube has limited privacy options – so if you are looking to sell information for viewing that needs to be limited (like teaching a class), Vimeo might be a better option for you.
LinkedIn is for business-to-business communications. For the best results, you need to get involved in discussion groups, or you can start discussion groups where your expertise can be used.
Another form of social media, Pinterest is highly used for sharing information with various images. I have found some GREAT information on Pinterest and tend to go over it a lot.
Then you have DIGG, stumble upon, and more. There are hundreds of different types of social media avenues that can be used. The biggest question is, “what fits your needs the best?” And how much time do you have to devote to posting?
Time is a huge factor; especially for small businesses. We need to not only work on building our customer base but we also need to focus on meeting both our current and future customer’s needs; as well as doing the every day necessities like paying the bills.