Using Social Media For Small Business

Using Social Media as part of your marketing strategy is all the rage. People are pell-mell signing up for Facebook and Twitter and sticking widgets and apps into their web site, but are those things working if you’re using them? And if you’re not using them how do you go about starting to and getting them to work for you?

To paraphrase the Hippocratic oath…first do no harm. Using a Social Media Network poorly or setting it up and not using it regularly is like having a ‘Sale’ sign in your window for a sale you had back in 2004. It sends a bad message about your business, which can virally spin around the Internet, just as fast as a positive one.

When you sit down to start using Social Media to promote your business, you’re making a commitment. It’s not going to instantly generate thousands of new customers. It takes a while to build your network, so be prepared to sit at the computer every day and type something into your new blog, or Facebook page, or Twitter and add friends and followers for the next few months, even if it appears to be a slow grind. Because it will. It’s part of the process, the same way that if you call and setup a Toll-Free number, it’s not going to start ringing off the hook the first day.

So don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Remember, the idea is to generate new business. Think about how the process you are setting up is going to do that. If you sign up for Twitter and stick the widget on your home page so your tweets are on your company web site, is that going to bring new people to your web site, or are people who do find your web site going to click your Tweet and leave? With all the marketing dollars and energy you spend to get people to your site, why would you want to give them something to click that will take them off your web site?!?

Yet, that is exactly what many people do. They sign up for a Social Network, plug the application into their web site, post something for a few days, and see no results, and then just leave it there. the message that sends to people that find your web site is that you’re not monitoring your web site, that information there is out of date, and then they click it and go away.

The way you want to use a Social Media tool, is to create a network on the Social Media site and drive them TO your web site. A good way to do this with a minimal time investment is to use a tool like Facebook. Create a profile/fan page for your business. make it personal. The idea here is to connect with people you already know, who already know your business, and create a virtual word-of-mouth marketing tool, that spreads awareness of your product or service, and drives people who are in your ‘friends’ or ‘fans’ network, and people who are friends or fans of THEIR pages, to your web site.

You can automate your Facebook page’s content via an RSS feed from your site, or add updates on new specials and products, and then link those updates back to your web site. Then the onus is on you to make your first connections. Find existing friends or customers that are on Facebook and add them as friends/fans of your page. As you add more friends and fans, everything you add to your page, will be automatically disseminated thru their pages as well. It will reach their friends/fans, and some of them will add your page to their network, too. It takes awhile but in a few weeks you can develop a couple hundred fans/friends pretty easily, just by starting with people you already know.

Another easy tool that requires very little commitment on your part is to add links to the various Social Networking sites on the content pages of your web site so your customers and site visitors can promote specific parts of your business thru their own existing social media networks. Look at this example, using the ‘sociable’ plugin on St. Lucie Times, any reader can – with a single click – add the story they’re reading to their own Facebook page.

Using Social Media tools in this way requires a lot less time commitment, and works to drive traffic towards your web site, not away from it. Pick one easy Social Network to start with first and get your feet wet. Commit yourself to checking it every day, like you do your email. Make it part of your process. Once you are more comfortable with one network, it’s much easier to branch out and make a greater commitment to Tweeting every day, or blogging on a regular basis. In a few months, you’ll have a pretty good idea where your target audience networks on the Internet, and how you can reach them.

Keep in mind that the idea is to create great content and a good web site for your business, and then drive people to it. One of the great advantages of Internet marketing is you can promote your business with your own time and energy, very inexpensively. It’s something you can do yourself, but you need to invest that time and energy, and you have to be careful not to do more damage than you would have by doing nothing at all.

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