There are numerous potentially alluring social media tools for the small business owner to try out, in hopes of marketing a new business to their community. Next up, in this three part discussion, we’ll take a look at how Facebook, Twitter and a few other networking sites can be incorporated into your business communication strategy.
Facebook, Twitter or both?
For many business owners, updating a personal Facebook and/or Twitter profile is a familiar activity. There are currently over 500 million Facebook users to go along with over 100 million Twitter users. People use Facebook and twitter in different ways. While many people think of these two sites mainly as places to connect with friends and family, share pictures and rant about everyday troubles, the business side of social media networking should not be overlooked!
Here are a few tips and ideas for getting started on building your social network:
- Open a separate profile for your business. This goes especially for Facebook, but also for Twitter. Although marketing your business to friends and family is often a useful approach when starting a business, remember that your existing friends and followers have connected with you as a person - not as a business. Creating a business profile adds to the appearance of professionalism, helps to organize your communication strategy (do you need your dedicated customers following your personal communication?), and helps you to gauge the true following your business commands, rather than a number inflated by personal relations.
- Create Content. Before you start inviting customers to visit your Facebook profile or to add you as a follower, make sure there's something there for them to experience! Pictures of yourself, your products and your facilities are a nice starting touch. You will also want to update logistical information, such as your hours of operation (if applicable), address and business history, to help visitors make sense of your operations.
- Next - reach out to your friends and family! After (only after) establishing your business profile, look to your personal 'rol-a-dex' of existing contacts, and request their permission to add you. If you already have a personal Facebook account, you can easily pick and choose from your existing friends.
- Advertise on Facebook (free or fee). Now that you've got a few followers attached to your business, feel free to update them on information or events that can help to connect them with your business. Advising your followers of upcoming sale events, new products and general awareness is a great (free) way to spread the word. Alternatively, Facebook offers businesses the option to place ads on Facebook (ever notice the ads that flash by the right side of the screen on Facebook?) for a 'per click' fee. The best part of this service is that it allows you to target your exact demographic very easily (Facebook knows the age/sex/location/interests of most users), allowing you to efficiently advertise at a reasonable cost. Depending on your target demographic, this might be right for you.
As with any social event, manners and etiquette are important. If you send out 50 tweets/week promoting your store, you're not likely to stay popular amongst your followers. You wouldn't call your clients 15 times a day to remind them to come visit your store, so why should twitter or Facebook be any different? Although formal language is not necessarily a requirement for social media communication (especially when Twitter limits you to 140 characters), try to keep everything consistent with the image you want your business to convey. The concepts of 'Anti-Marketing' design might help to guide you, if you're not sure of how to find the right balance.
Finally, have fun and don't be afraid to experiment! Social media is full of unique and random success stories. Think of it (much like a blog) as a chance to express yourself creatively. If you get into a routine of regularly tweeting and updating your Facebook profile, your followers will keep you fresh in their minds.
There's no shortage of FAQs and 'how to' guides to social media for small business. Here are a few links that you might find useful:
Using Twitter for Business (PDF)
Twitter for Entrepreneurs
5 Steps to Successful Facebook Advertising
Let's Talk: Social Media for Small Business v.2 (PDF) *** Highly recommended
21 Tips for Using Twitter and Facebook for Business
Social Marketing 2.0: Exploring the Business Side of Social Media
Facebook for Business Facts and Statistics
All Facebook - The Unofficial Facebook Resource
Twitter Drives Traffic, Sales - A Case Study