biz ladies: social media

rosie_the_riveter1
it’s no surprise that business marketing practices have drastically changed in the last decade.  it is now crucial for all businesses to maintain a web presence and embrace the various social media outlets that are available (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc).

it can be a complicated process getting involved in the social media frenzy, but we are lucky to have the wisdom and advice of orli sharaby from the award winning digital marketing agency 360i. orli shares with us some helpful tips on which social media outlets to choose and how to best utilize them.  thanks orli for your insight!–stephanie

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Social media is the ultimate connector. Ten years ago, you may have told 5 people about the amazing cupcake you had at the new shop that opened up downstairs from your office. Five years ago, you might have written it up on your blog, which if you were lucky had 50 readers (Perez Hilton also could have raved about an amazing cupcake and influenced hundreds of thousands of people in one fell swoop, but who wants to be Perez anyway). But now, with one click of a button you can rave about the delicious cupcake you just ate on Facebook, and dozens or even hundreds of your friends – who probably live and work near you, and thus in the vicinity of the cupcake shop – will get the tip. You can also post your mini-review to Twitter, upload a mouthwatering picture to Flickr, check in to the place on Foursquare, or review it on Yelp – potentially influencing hundreds if not thousands of people to beeline it for your new favorite cupcake shop. Of course, a bad experience can inspire a similarly impassioned response.

Social media provides incredible opportunities for small businesses to gain scale like never before, but it also takes a lot of work. Here are some tips and tricks of the trade that will help you leverage the potential of social media platforms.

Set up shop: Having a website is essential at this point, but it’s just not enough. Consumers are looking to engage with brands like never before, and creating a presence on the key social networking sites is important to show them you’re open to connecting. The great thing is, most social media is free to set up, so the investment is only one of time and energy. And even if you don’t have the resources to engage yet, consider claiming your brand name in social media spaces. If you don’t take it, someone will; better to play offense now rather than defense later.

Choose the right platforms: Most small businesses will find that it makes sense to create a Facebook page – the large majority of their customers have Facebook profiles and are spending lots of time there – even becoming fans with their favorite brands on a scale nobody could have predicted. But does Twitter make sense for everyone? For the taco van that changes location every day, Twitter is a great way to let your hardcore fans know where you’re going to be in real time. But if you’re struggling with what to say on a daily or even hourly basis, Twitter might not be right for your business. Still other businesses will find that niche social networks can help them connect with a very specific type of consumer which drives their business. For example, Stylecaster for fashion designers, DeviantART for artists and designers, Curbly for furniture designers, or BakeSpace for chefs.

Leverage your biggest fans: If you’ve recently launched your business, you may think you don’t have any fans yet. Not true! Your friends and family have the potential to be powerful allies in spreading the word to their own social graphs. And if you’ve already got some loyal existing customers, even better. Let them know that you’re trying to spread the word. Give them a special discount code that they can send to all their friends, let them know about a new product before it comes into the store, or ask them for advice about what color to paint the walls. They’ll appreciate the extra love and share that around.

Keep the conversation going: Managing your business’s social media presences takes work. Your social footprint (the sum total of all your social media profiles/presences) will be practically useless to you if you don’t keep it updated on a regular basis. Take a Facebook page, for example. Setting a page up with a few photos and status updates is a great start, and you might gain a few fans. But that’s where the real fun begins. Each time you upload content or post a status message, it will be broadcast to your fans’ homepages, where they can be reminded of your business and how great it is, consume the content you provide, engage with it, and even share it with all their friends, expanding your reach exponentially. So in order to make the most of social media, keep the conversation fresh and exciting.

Monitor the buzz: It really sucks when someone is talking behind your back and you don’t know it. The great thing about social media is, you can eavesdrop on what people are saying, even in places where you don’t have a presence – which makes it much easier to catch potential issues before they become a real problem. If a customer complains on Twitter about having a bad experience at your store, you can reach out to her and try to address her issue – potentially turning her into an advocate instead of a disgruntled customer. Monitoring your brand’s buzz can also help you identify what people like about your products that you may not have realized, for example customers love your peanut butter cupcakes and your chocolate ones, but wish you’d make peanut butter/chocolate! Bottom line, social media can be a very powerful CRM tool.

Social media can certainly be daunting, but remember: we’re social people! If you have a Facebook page yourself, if you’ve ever watched a video on YouTube, if you’ve commented on a blog post… you’re already participating in social. Taking it to the next level with your small business takes work, but can reap bountiful rewards.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Orli Sharaby is an Associate Director of Social Marketing at 360i, where she develops integrated social marketing strategies for a range of large fashion, retail, lifestyle and CPG brands. In a previous life, Orli was a fashion and style writer for several regional magazines in Prague, Czech Republic and fashion editor at PSFK.com

Holly

Cool! Dunno if I should make a facebook for my place yet though.

Jennifer

Love this post. It makes me feel better about all the time I do spend in the daunting social media world- it can be such a “time-sucker” so it’s great to hear that it’s worth it!

aneyefordetail

Social media is absolutely invaluable.. and now, no need to have a formal website that a) costs b) means you have to have someone who knows html to update it. Blogs have become the new website, I think. And yes, it is imperative to be constantly updating whatever platform(s) you choose.

Jaclyn

I absolutely loved this post. Social media so important. Just dive in is the key! don’t worry about the bigger picture… it will just overwhelm you.

Jaclyn

teresa

Absolutely agree! I can not tell you how many individuals in company leadership positions contact me when I have tweeted posisitively about their product. Many are looking to engage consumers directly. Every company should employ a Social Media Manager – it is the hot new career.

Andrea

I couldn’t have said it better myself! Great tips! I have done most of them and found some success in some but will keep trying as it doesn’t happen overnight.

Kate@MagnoliaRouge

This was a very timely post for me. Having resisted for some time I became a ‘tweeter’ a few months back and am now hooked. I find it’s more a way of connecting with industry insiders rather than new clients, but for someone who works at home alone it’s like a virtual office so for that I’m grateful….feels like there always someone to talk or complain to :-) Have also just started a facebook page finally. I love doing it all but yes it’s a huge time investment….but possibly the reason my business has gone from strength to strength in the past few months. I would absolutely love my own Social Media Manager!!

Margaret Wentworth

How to find the time is the hard part. Does anyone have anytime saving tip to do all the buzz? My online store keeps me so busy, I’d like to know so easy ways to keep up?

Erin

Almost all of my friends and family are on facebook and no one is on twitter, so I’ve found it really difficult to interact with anyone there. It feels like I’m talking to a wall, so I’m not loving it so far. I also find it’s a huge time sucker and would love some tips for managing it all.

Orli

Hi Erin, Margaret, and others who have questions about time management on social platforms. Try using a third party application like Hootsuite (http://hootsuite.com/) to manage your accounts. Hopefully that will help save some time and sanity!

Christine Schwalm

Another way to get a Facebook page up and running is to get a teenager to do it for you for a small fee. They are so tech savvy and you can easily proof what they do. And you can never teach the value of money too early.

Christine Schwalm

Also, you need to have a LinkedIn page. It’s a good way to get endorsements for your services and products. And there are groups to help network and get ideas.

Linda

This article comes at just the right time for me. I ‘ve started website for my jewelry designs and I am trying to get the word out to people. I’m investing a lot of time in my Facebook Page, with not much return yet for the time investment. Your article encourages me to keep plugging away at it–it takes time to build a following. Thank you.

Maggie@eThoughtfulThings

Thanks Orli, for the tip on hootsuite. With summer coming I have been thinking about hiring an intern for social media. Has anyone done this, have any advise and what about paying an intern, how do you handle this?

Nikki

Love this! I needed to be pushed a bit in this direction. I struggle with the balance between creating and marketing. I have used hootsuite in the past and it is super helpful! I need to get back to that.

julie burton

social media is the direction of the future clearly. all major companies as well as small ones are jumping on the bandwagon which can be seen in the plugs for facebook and twitter that have made their way onto commercials. north social is a great place to go if you are ready to begin/upgrade your social media networking platform but aren’t sure how to go about it: http://www.northsocial.com/

Christen

Great post. I work in social media/writing for a living and this is great advice. I definitely agree about hootsuite, it makes managing social media far easier and I can plan certain tweets/messages out ahead of time.

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