I'm encouraged by blogs and news outlets starting to report that social media isn't an effective marketing tool. Ok, that's not really what they're saying. They're saying social media is necessary but to make it effective, it has to be focused. It has to be a tool in your marketing toolbox, not a megaphone you shout into.
We're pushing into the second half of 2013, many years beyond the days of early blogs or the launch of Facebook and Twitter, and today we're inundated with so many social media options, it makes one cross-eyed. Even those of us who work in the social media space are rubbing our temples trying to push away the headache of "another social media community?".
How is a small business supposed to determine the best and most effective way to use this tool we call "social media"? I can tell you this much - you don't play pin the tail on the donkey, hoping your push-pin lands on the right answer, rewarding you with riches beyond galore!
Here's what you do...
- Consider your goals. Are you intent upon branding for branding's sake (gotta get my name out there!). Are you hoping for sales (more eyeballs could mean more sales!). Or, are you hoping to establish yourself as an expert in your field, knowing the brand will grow and the sales will come?
- Look at your team - social media takes time. Do you have the right team in place to explore and learn social media from Facebook to Twitter to blogging to the latest new community launch focused on your industry? Who is going to do it all? Not you. You're busy building the business, I think. Or, if you... when will you participate? Make a plan!
- Look at each tool separately, then bring them together collectively. Which ones might work best for your purposes? Learn each tool by reading articles, studying blog posts, and just participating. Get on Facebook and tiptoe along until you're comfortable with it. Then move to a blog or Twitter. Don't overwhelm yourself with too much social media, from the get-go.
- Understand the social aspect of social media. It's not about sharing YOUR words or thoughts, although people think it is. It's about teaching and helping. Teach me something. Help me achieve something. Let ME promote you because I learned from you or was helped by you. Social involves listening as much as talking. Doesn't it?
- Last, the most important thing you can do is create company guidelines. In the early days, we bloggers put our guidelines in our sidebar: "We will tell the truth. If we are wrong about something we've written, we will own up to it. We require you to respect this blog - if your comments are rude or off-topic, we will delete them." Guidelines help you stay on track with your social media efforts, and they help readers/visitors understand how to behave on your site.
I think being social is the most important thing you can do to grow your business. That doesn't mean stumbling along trying to get it right. It means being thoughtful, focused, and committed. It could also mean bringing on a professional to get you over the rough spots until you're truly comfortable having those real-time, honest, open conversations with clients and would-be clients.
I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.