How Social Media Helps You Grow Your Business

social media marketingA wise and savvy small business owner will use all the resources available to help grow his or her business. The emergence of social media marketing, and its correct usage, is an often low-cost or even free way to do just that.

Like anything else, there’s a right and wrong way to properly execute a social media campaign. Here are some tips to consider:

Have a plan. Consider this to be a series of questions—your plan should address who your audience is or will be, what messages you will have for them, what you can offer them that’s different from your competition. How will you measure your success? If you’re not able to effectively answer all of these questions, or you’re unsure of your answers, then you aren’t ready to make the jump yet. You should gather the information that you need before moving forward. Without the proper plan in place, you won’t be happy with your social networking results, or will have a hard time knowing if you're efforts are successful.

Do the research. There are many social networks available, possibly some you’ve never heard of. Each serves a particular purpose for its target audience. Some are for personal contacts, some—like LinkedIn, for example—are designed for business networking. It’s often best to start with a blog that serves as a sort of “depot” for your online content, and can serve to aggregate it from across all your social media. For example: if you own a landscaping company, you might post different entries on several different social media sites. It’s likely that a customer doesn’t visit every one of those sites, so that customer is missing out on important information. If you had all these postings collected in one central area—like your company blog—your customers wouldn’t have to search the Internet to find them. Also, someone who stumbled onto one of your postings on a social media site and wanted more information could follow the link from that site to your company’s blog.

Develop relevant and timely content on a routine basis. How many times have you clicked on your email application’s 'Refresh' or 'Get Mail' button, waiting for an important email, only to find nothing new? Don’t make your customers wait a long time for new content. Develop a schedule and stick to it! Educate your customers on what to expect, and when. For example: Friday is “Weekly Sale” day, when you post any sales you have scheduled for the upcoming week. Tuesday is Two-Fer Day, when you post which things are buy-one-get-one free today. Your “Backyard Garden” column is posted every Wednesday. You get the idea. It’s been said that the building blocks of any online community that is doing well are users and content. Keep it coming.

Listen. Carefully monitor social for mentions of your brand/product/company. Have a plan ready to document any such mentions, and stand ready to take action (if that’s the appropriate course) to defend against accusations, answer questions, provide guidance, or whatever might be the case. By promptly responding it shows that you care about your business and its customers.

Prepare a budget.