When it comes to how people find and share information, social media has changed the landscape forever.
So let’s get the easy answers out of the way for starters … should you use social media to build your brand profile and promote your business? That would be a great big resounding YES OF COURSE!
Yet the number of small businesses taking advantage of this prime free promotional opportunity is still surprisingly low – not even nudging the 30% mark in Australia.
Fair to say that many small business owners have held off dipping their toe in the social pool because they’ve jumped to a number of conclusions:
(a) It’s too hard – an assumption made because they don’t understand it.
(b) It’s a time suck – and time is something they don’t have.
(c) It’s nothing more than sharing cute cat pictures and swapping recipes on Facebook – hence not relevant to their business.
The only way to get a handle on how it all works is to start using it. If you get reeeeally stuck there’s plenty of expert help available through other users, social media consultants, in forums and just about everywhere you look on Google.
It can be time consuming if you let it, but schedule it just like you would any other marketing activity in your business.
As for Facebook, you’d be crazy not to be there given that it has the lion’s share of the social networking market. But don’t pin your entire social media strategy on Facebook alone. You want to go fishing for business, go where the fish are!
Be warned though, when you decide to bite the bullet and take your business social (notice I said when, not if) there are 3 Golden Rules you need to remember.
RULE #1: Community before commerce – in other words listen first, sell second.
RULE #2: Connect and communicate – it’s called social for a reason, so get some conversation going.
RULE #3: Content and context matter – provide valuable information don’t just tout for business, and ensure you create the kind of content that people expect in social media. (More about that another time)
According to Zoomerang’s Marketing in a Digital World SMB & Consumer Survey Results, 2011 the top three reasons SMBs use social networks are: connecting with customers, visibility and self-promotion. So if you’re not one of them, why not?
In terms of speed to market you can’t beat it, but like any good relationship it doesn’t just blossom overnight and it will take time to see the fruits of your labours. So go in with a realistic expectation. You have to be prepared to stick with it and not make snap judgements because you don’t sell truckloads of product in the first six weeks. Of course if you do, we’d love to hear your secret!