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July 21, 2011

Small Business Social Media – Where Do You Start?

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Small business social media starts with making the decision to be part of the conversation. Not as easy or cut and dried a decision as one may think. What are the factors involved in this process? The pros and cons?

Pros:

* Potential to raise website page rank

* Potential to find new customers or clients

* Potential to make new business connections

* Potential to reach current customer base with new products or services

* Potential to get customers talking about me or my company

* Potential to find out what you are not offering to your customers that they want

* Potential to have your own PR department consisting of your customers

* Potential to get great reviews from happy customers

* Potential to feel important because you have 15 followers! (Joking)

Cons:

* Time consuming
* Energy consuming
* Resource consuming
* Costly
* Don’t know what to say
* Don’t know where to start
* Don’t have any customers or clients to help you get started

The current trend in search engines is to use tweets and status updates, shares and reviews about you or your website as a piece of how they rank your site. So for no other reason, because of this you need to have at least a minimal social media presence. Facebook Business Page, Twitter account, Linked In, Yelp, Google Places and a YouTube channel. There are over 400 social media sites out there, but these are the 6 you should start with. Privacy is a concern, but you control what is seen and accessed, not visitors. Google and Bing utilize the share button as a strong indicator that people view you or your site as an authoritative site. Sharing is the highest form of social media flattery followed closely by reviews and links.

Don’t get lost in the hype over how well social media helps big business. Big business throws hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars into their PR campaigns of which social media is a part. You don’t have that kind of budget and therefore all the great white papers on and case studies of big business success in social media just doesn’t apply to you. Focus instead on what you can do locally to effect a positive return on investment (ROI).

Local Social Media is a task that can consume time and energy of small business owners and be a drain on their budgets if not managed well. Just like any other small business task, managing is the key to success. So manage it, don’t let it manage you.

Start with picking someone in your company who will handle the day-to-day social media activities, who will spend 15 minutes every day to either tweet something on Twitter, or retweet something, post a status update on Facebook or check the insights and activity. It doesn’t have to be you, the business owner. I recommend to my clients that they have someone else do the basics and leave the relationship building to themselves. Once you have established who, decide when. Facebook marketers are notorious for posting multiple times a day and losing their audience. Twitter feeds can and often are more than once a day without being annoying, while Linked In may be once a week or even every two weeks. Here is how we set up our clients:

LinkedIn – Business Owner ONLY! Once a week unless involved in an ongoing discussion that has benefits for your company.

Facebook – Employee when posting general info, owner when discussing more detailed things. Remember if you aren’t the one posting let your followers and fans know that someone else is. Never let them think it is you if it isn’t. Once a week can be enough as long as your fans know what day and what time they can expect your update.

Twitter – General Tweets for the company can be done by an employee on the Business Page, but we suggest that the Twitter page name be the company name with the profile picture and bio being that of the owner. And the owner should use Twitter to build relationships with other business people not so much as a customer relations tool. Twitter is very personal and should be handled like you are just standing around the office water cooler shooting the breeze, not as a sell, sell, sell site.

YouTube – Videos about the product or service you offer. When appropriate the owner should at least narrate, but this can be delegated to an employee.

Yelp, Google and other “places” sites where people can review. Employee level work, mainly in setting up the site.

The next step once you have delegated who does what is to determine which accounts you need. We set up 6 main accounts for clients and let them choose which others might work for them with our thoughts on each.

Setting up each site can be a little cumbersome and time consuming but well worth it.

* Facebook – 5 – 10 minutes
* Twitter – 15 minutes
* LinkedIn – 30 minutes (this is your business card, don’t skimp)
* YouTube – 30 minutes
* Yelp – 20 minutes
* Google Places – 30 – 45 minutes

So the set up takes a little time. One person could get it all done in a morning or by the end of the week if they took on one a day. You can hire firms to set them all up, average cost is about $100- $150 per account depending on how elaborate you go. $500 – $1000 or in house depends on your budget. I believe in using professionals but have seen some great set ups done in house.

Set daily tasks for Twitter, Weekly for Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Set 30 day, 90 day and 120 day goals for what you want accomplished in those time frames. Don’t worry about ROI like you do with conventional marketing and advertising. ROI in small business social media is rarely a dollar for dollar return but more likely the building of solid long term relationships that turn into referrals.

A daily task goal for Twitter may be just following others in your field. Listening to their conversations and where appropriate, join in.

Weekly for Twitter may be to have added 25 new followers per week.

Monthly might be getting an equal number of followers to follow you back.

Facebook should be a planned out weekly, monthly and quarterly marketing campaign that includes your fans and customers thoughts and ideas.

LinkedIn starts with building on current connections and strengthening them. Who do you know and who do you want to know?

Small business social media should be treated like any other aspect of your business. Manage it, review it but most of all be consistent. Don’t open an account and then forget about it. You didn’t open your store and then forget to reorder inventory. Stay on top of it and it will over time – 6 to 12 months – pay off.


Christopher Bayes is the Co-Founder of Bayes Squared LLC, Colorado’s only performance based sales consulting company and co-creator of Meta Social Web a community of business owners dedicated to improving each others web popularity and prosperity. His blog and company information can be found at http://www.5StepSalesJumpStart.com where he invites you to join the conversation on how to increase sales for small and medium businesses using simple yet effective small business strategies that work.

6 Responses to “Small Business Social Media – Where Do You Start?

    avatar Pawnee Walia says:

    This is really important post for SEM professionals. One should really need to follow these tips!

    avatar Jane Hess says:

    Christopher, re: “Yelp, Google and other “places” sites where people can review”, I’m eager to read an article devoted to REVIEWS – company & product; aggregate service v. independently collecting; shopping site reviews; then the magic to get reviews indexed on SE! bewildering, frustating, necessary,ugh…
    thanks

    avatar Ed Rude says:

    Social media feels like a combination of how to feel despair, uselessness, and waste of time which leaves many of us with a sense of loss of energy and interest in doing anything about our websites. In addition when it is used to promote our websites, many of us look at it as a great way to alienate our friends.

    This becomes a wast of time for many of us.

    This also becomes a great opportunity for others to sell services that put our various web-pages onto the social media sites.

    For those of you who actually can find any enjoyment in those sites (I am personally on six of them)advertise your services to the rest of us.
    Many of us know they are valuable but cannot stand more than two minutes of those time wasters. If someone who knows how to utilize those types of sites on behalf of a website sells their services, i am convinced they can step into a small fortune.

    I wish you well in your endeavors.

    Christopher, I think that this article is absolutely fantastic. First and foremost, I think that you hit the nail on the head when you refer to small business social media as being part of a conversation. It is too easy to forget about the importance of dialogue versus just getting a message out that isn’t that different than “push” advertising.
    Beyond that, I could go and on about how well written this article is. You truly lay out a nice framework for the small business owner that is easy to read, makes sense, and actually encourages small business owners to take the leap into social media, versus scaring them away as some in-depth articles can do. Nice work!

    Thanks for the tips, Christopher. I know this post is from 2011, but it is amazing how it all still holds true years later.

    avatar Tom Reed says:

    This was a great summary article for setting up and managing Social Media. It not only speaks of the importance of establishing a professional presence on Social Media, but stresses the importance of the owner, and not just a third party, to be invoved in Social Media programs.

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