Many businesses have, by now, ventured into the world of social media in one form or another. But have those efforts paid off; I can most assuredly say that in most cases, it has likely hurt their credibility.
Below are 6 Tips that will make sure your efforts grow your business and don't undermine your strategic goals.
1) Choose the right network: There is no value in being the first to market on a social networking site. So you haven't missed the boat. Ask your customers or search for their email addresses before dedicating the time to set-up a page for your business. The main goal of social networking is 1) to engage your current customers and 2) entice new ones.
2) Make the commitment: Social media networks have an overabundance of small business profiles that were created and updated for a short period of time, only to have the administrator shortly thereafter lose interest for whatever reason. Social media is not a quick fix and certainly takes a level of commitment to generate the desired result. If you don't have the time or the patience, it is better to not have a profile, than to have one that is incomplete or not cultivated.
3) 5 times per week: Update your profile, change your status update, or ask a thought provoking question at least 5 times per week. This is a minimum! Try not to exceed 3 updates per day because you are trying to engage and stay Top-of-Mind, not monopolize their day. But you must continually bring something to the conversation if you want your followers to pay attention to you.
4) Add value: Utilize links, highlight non-competing businesses that are of interest, post comments that naturally elicit responses. Unless it is part of your business culture, stay away from partisan posts. And not everything you highlight or comment about has to do with business. Just be interesting.
5) Listen: Nobody likes the person at the party that won't stop talking and only talks about themselves. Don't be 'that guy.' Social media is a two-way street. Listen to your fans. Comment on their posts; be sure to respond to them when they comment about you or your posts. Engage your customers and they will reward you.
6) Speak as an individual: Do not use stuffy language and don't present info as though it was filtered through a copywriter or lawyer. Speak with your voice. No one wants to talk to a company; they want to talk with the individual behind the logo.
7) Do not 'collect' fans: It is not a contest to see who has the most followers or fans. Do not 'blast' invites to the world if the people that you are targeting are not strategic targets for your business. Smaller can be better in terms of your following, if you keep those people engaged and interested. This will grow your following in a slower more methodical fashion. But this will help you determine what is effective and help you develop your 'voice.'
This is just a 'jumping off point,' but if you can follow these simple tips, your small business marketing efforts in social media will be much more effective. If you have a profile that does not adhere to these suggestions, it is not too late to change. Institute these for a few days and you will see a drastic difference.