For any small business owner or sole trader, the importance of being active on social media cannot be understated. Just about everyone these days has some sort of social network account, from rock stars to politicians, and even their own grandmothers in some cases, so there is no excuse to avoid it and say “that is not my particular audience”.
When you are busy trying to establish your business, it is very easy to completely avoid using social media simply because you may not understand it, and wouldn’t have the first clue about how to get started.
Another common problem may be experienced further down the line when you may have tried it out for a while, but quickly become overwhelmed with managing it all, and eventually give it up through frustration.
There are solutions available to help with the above two problems. You could hire a social media marketing manager or company who could step in and handle all your marketing for you. Or if you are happy to create posts and use the sites, but find it all a bit overwhelming, then a good management tool such as HootSuite can be a lifesaver for managing, organising and scheduling tweets and posts to your networks.
Maybe the best way to approach the situation is to do just a few social media sites well rather than to take on too many, and end up doing all of them very poorly.
Just like traditional marketing efforts that have been tried and tested over the years, building up your reputation through social media platforms to sell your product or services requires plenty of consistent time and effort.
The old saying that word of mouth has always been the best form of marketing is still true today. Social media sites are simply a way to spread word-of-mouth news and information in the modern world via the internet rather than in the street or over the garden fence, so if your words are convincing and trustworthy, there will always be people willing to listen to you.
So, which social media sites are the best for small business?
Probably the most well known and longest established site would be Facebook.
Designed from day one to be user-friendly and inclusive, you can search for interests, specific groups, people or companies with business pages, and just drop right into the conversation. No matter what your particular focus is, there will surely be someone on Facebook with a page all about it.
Setting up your own page is really easy, and once you start posting to your wall you will start to attract people who will be searching for information using your keywords. Once people start to follow you, any new posts you create will go directly to their own Facebook wall, and any of their friends visiting their wall will also see your post.
This is a great way to attract like-minded people over to your Facebook page and gain more Likes and followers.
Because you will be posting content that is so current, it is a great way for your followers to get information that they may not be able to get from your set pages on your website. This is great for times when you run sales or offer codes with time limited value. It is much easier to run a sale or a competition via Facebook than to amend pages on your website that will need to be changed again once the sale or competition ends.
Twitter is currently the second most popular social media network, and there are advantages to using this site if you are not particularly practiced at writing lengthy posts.
Because you are limited to 140 characters per tweet, you can quickly update your followers about a new blog post you have written, or inform them of a flash sale or discount code and include a link back to your blog or website where they can find out more information.
If you are the type that can be a little overwhelmed with social media duties, then Twitter takes the pressure off having to consistently produce wordy and lengthy posts, and you can make things even easier by using a service to manage your tweets, such as Tweet-U-Later where you can schedule your tweets in advance.
Both Facebook and Twitter are worth investing your time into, and making every post count with quality content and relevant news will certainly gain you a loyal following. These two sites are probably the best ones to focus on at the beginning of your social media marketing journey.
Two other sites worth mentioning here are Digg and LinkedIn. It would be worth your time to investigate these sites once you are firmly established on Facebook and Twitter.
Digg has grown to become a social news site that features popular posts prominently, and if you write an article or post that attracts a lot of attention, you could potentially drive up your page views by thousands. There is great potential for driving a lot of traffic to your site via Digg, so it is well worth looking at for marketing campaigns.
LinkedIn is like Facebook for business. This is a great place to hook up with professional services that can help your own business to grow. You can also check out other companies within your field, and see what activities they are doing that you could draw inspiration from.