Hey Small Business, It’s Time to Get Serious About Social

When it comes to small business, challenges in developing a smart, successful social media presence are the same as most face in all facets of their business – time and money.  

Most small businesses now know they have to get on board but time can be one of the most precious commodities and that’s why many are still afraid to really commit.  It doesn’t help that in 2011 there were new tools, platforms or apps practically every week and they’re only going to come more fast and furiously in this year.   

When social began to take hold the thinking was that you had to be everywhere in the social media world to compete.  But then we were really only talking about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and maybe a blog. The learning curve wasn’t too steep, there was less competition in building an active community, tools were free and you could still be successful with some enthusiasm and elbow grease.

That’s changed and going into 2012 small businesses need to be more selective about where they invest their time and be prepared to spend some money.  Here’s are guide to developing a strong social plan: 

  • Hire a social media specialist to help you wade through all of the tools, identify the ones that will be most effective, get them set up and to help develop the tone and general theme of your content.  You can take over the strategy yourself and run with it but consider a monthly phone call with your strategist to measure your results and make adjustments. 
  • Be realistic about how much time you have to devote to social.  Get your employees involved and draw on their expertise.  Trust goes a long way and by empowering them you will give your customers a good experience and you may find that your staff goes into 2012 with a new vigour for their jobs.  
  • Content is still the lynchpin.  Research your competition and to find out what’s working and what’s not.  Discover what makes you different and build your content around that.  Small businesses have a more personal relationship with customers.  Be approachable, informative and helpful.  Think beyond words.  People love to share photos and videos with their social networks.
  • Learn how to use the tools even if you plan to hire someone to run your social marketing.  Too many companies just hand over the reins and don’t have the knowledge to determine if a strategy is any good.  Set up personal accounts and play.  Read lots of blogs (along with Social Media Club, I like Mashable for technology and Social Media Examiner and HubSpot for content and marketing tips), follow key people in the social media industry and go to some workshops and seminars.  
  • Set up monitoring tools.  Many are free or have a small fee.  Look at Sprout Social, Twilert and Google alerts.  
  • Get a smart phone!  It will be one of the best marketing investments you make this year.  More than 100 million smart phones were sold worldwide in the first half of 2011 and a growing number of people are using their mobile phones to connect with their social networks.

[Image Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/69122]