In 2010, many small business owners are increasing their use of social media to promote their business online through sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Better Business Bureau recommends that small business owners ease into the waters thoughtfully when planning to launch a social media strategy; otherwise, they risk abandoning the ship in frustration.
Small businesses are shifting marketing strategy toward social media because it is a less-expensive alterative to traditional advertising. According to a recent survey by VerticalResponse, Inc., 70 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses plans to increase their use of social media in 2010.
At the same time, 79 percent say they will not run television ads and 70 percent say they will not make radio buys.
Adopting a comprehensive, but manageable, social media strategy can be an inexpensive yet effective way to improve customer relations and spread the word about your business. BBB offers the following advice to small business owners who want to start promoting their company through social media:
Keep it simple
Don't get in over your head. If you're both the owner and the marketing department of a small business, the worst thing you could do is launch a large, unmanageable strategy that takes up too much time and ends up neglected. You don't have to do everything at once. Instead, try to set aside a few minutes every day to engage in one or two aspects of social media promotion. Start small, such as with a Facebook page or by commenting on blogs or connecting with customers on Twitter. Let your social media strategy grow and evolve as you learn what works best for your time constraints and business goals.
Create and share
Social media is about engagement, and creating and sharing content is key to connecting with customers and other industry leaders. You might not realize it, but you, as a small business owner, are an expert and have sound advice and informed opinions to share. When writing your own content, always maintain an appropriate and professional tone and use plenty of links to other sites, blogs or news articles to help illustrate your point. You can share this content on any number of places such as on your own blog, a community blog or on your Facebook or MySpace page.
Keep it connected
Once you've created your page on Facebook, or established your blog or Twitter account or other online presences, cross-promote your content so that the same message is going out across every site. For example, tweet about your blog post or send a link in a message to your LinkedIn group. Many social media tools can be integrated. For example, you can display a Facebook badge or a Twitter widget on your blog or Web site.
An online conversation is taking place right now about your business, your industry or issues affecting your community. Inject yourself and opinions into the conversation by following opinion leaders on Twitter and social networking sites and commenting on blog posts. Whenever possible, include a link back to your content or Web site.
Steer the talk
Your customers are talking about you online whether you like it or not on their blogs, consumer-focused Web sites and on review sites including Yelp, Yahoo! Local and CitySearch. While you can't take control of the conversation, you can help steer it by listening, engaging with customers and working to resolve any problems.
For more advice you can trust on running a small business, visit www.bbb.org.
KELVIN COLLINS IS THE PRESIDENT/CEO OF THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU OF CENTRAL GEORGIA & THE CSRA INC. REFER QUESTIONS OR COMPLAINTS ABOUT A COMPANY OR CHARITY TO (800) 763-4222, WWW.BBB.ORG OR INFO@CENTRALGEORGIA.