Are you a small business owner? Even as a sole proprietor you have certain duties you must perform should you expect to compete and succeed in your targeted niche. Marketing and advertising is quickly changing how all businesses operate. The great news is you can be just as competitive as companies with budgets much larger than yours if you opt to learn about and employ social media marketing in your daily operations.
Quickly, social media would be online communities like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and hundreds of other smaller, more focused niche destinations. There are even social communities whose functions are to allow you to create your very own social community. Sites like Ning provide you with all the tools to build, customize, and then socialize with a community of like minded individuals.
While the broadcast media of television, newspapers and some magazines may like to lambaste the users of the Facebook-like social networks of the world, the reality is that more than just teenagers are active users of these communities. With over 200 million registered users on Facebook, there has to be someone other than teens using those services.
Twitter is one of the fastest growing social communities today. In essence it is a messaging service that limits the number of characters you can use to broadcast (currently 140 characters is the limit). Initially, not a lot of folks really understood the power of telling others what you were up to in that very moment. After a few years, however, if you don’t have a Twitter user name for yourself and/or your business, you’re really behind the curve.
But how do you use Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to maximize your company’s message and opportunities to drive sales or branding? First and foremost, you need to know how to use the services and then, of course, start using them! If you can’t take the time to open your own account and read up on what you can and can’t do, you probably should shy away from social media marketing completely. At worse, you could pay one of your younger employees and extra buck or two an hour and have them tutor you in the ways of the social media world.
By spending the time within the various communities, you’ll learn a few key things. Most of them are free to use, only costing your time and effort. Of course we all know time is money, so there is some implied cost to you from that perspective. But you’ve become entrepreneurial, and once you understand how a social community works, your creative instincts will kick in on how you can take advantage of their tools to promote your services or products.
- Ask questions.
- Go to the areas where discussions are being had and simply read and interact where appropriate.
- Learn how to build a Facebook page that is all about promoting your business. It’s easy. You really can do it.
Regardless of whether your business is only focused on local customers or you ship product around the globe, a page on Facebook will provide a destination for your clients and potential customers to interact with you and each other. This is exactly what social communities do online.
Spend some regular time on Twitter following like minded individuals and businesses that could behoove your understanding of both your own business and your industry in general. The term “following” is synonymous with subscribing to that person’s messages. Whenever you are online, logged in to your Twitter account, you’ll have access to read the 140 character messages those you follow publish.
While it seems new ways to use Twitter emerge every day, the tried and true methods are to interact with others. If you’re promoting your business offerings, you’ll want to have real conversations. Use search tools to learn what people are asking about in relation to the keywords that relate to what your business does. If you sell cheesecake locally, but are interested in shipping it across the country, pay attention to what people are talking about. You can set alerts to bring to your attention anytime anyone on Twitter uses the word “cheesecake.” Then you have the chance to reply to that person with your own voice, even if you don’t follow each other. This just happens to be one of the best, most organic ways to grow your number of followers as well.
Whether you are interested in local applications of social media like geographical location services such as GoWalla or FourSquare, or are looking to grow your empire globally with the use of Facebook and Twitter (both of which can be highly effective for local use as well) understand that what you don’t know about social media marketing can hurt you. Spend some quality time to learn about these and other services, and then use them.
Regular use of social media marketing techniques will absolutely pay you dividends. It may not happen in the first day or first week. But you will be surprised at how quickly your efforts will be repaid, and how massive your time in the communities manifests in the type of results your business desires.
About the Author: This is a guest post by Vern, who specializes in creating systems for online merchants to help make mobile payments efficient and easy to use for consumers.