As the leader of a chamber of commerce for almost nine years, the number one thing I heard from small business was that they didn’t have the time or budget to concentrate on marketing. Most said that they weren’t ready for it. That was usually followed up by comments such as, “We’ve been in our location for over 2 years but people still come in all the time asking if we just opened.”
Social media is great tool for small business owners. There is a small independent gift shop on the north side of Chicago that consistently posted fun new items on Facebook that came into the store. After about a year, a magazine in Los Angeles commented on some of the fun items on their digital channels and that helped to take their e-business to a whole new level.
In business, the theory of “build it and they will come” just doesn’t work. Yet that’s what I see small businesses doing all the time. Fortunately, social media can let the world know that you are out there for little to no cost. Think about how your business can benefit from social media. If you’re a retailer, use the first three quarters of the year to establish a dialogue with customers. By the fourth quarter they already know they want to do their holiday shopping with you.
Starting with social media
Before you let the world know you’re out there it is best to have a game plan. Using the four tips below will help you get started and be more effective.
- Define your goals. What do you hope to accomplish by using social media? Is it awareness of your business? To get people to an event you’re hosting? To establish yourself as an expert in a field? It is important to define your goals so that you know if your efforts have been successful. Even just writing them down and sharing them with everyone on the team will insure that everyone is on the same page.
- Start small. Don’t try to tackle every social media channel at once. Decide on a channel or two that makes the most sense for your business. If your business is something very visual, Pinterest or Instagram might make the most sense. If you are in professional services focusing on establishing yourself and being helpful then LinkedIn may be your best route. Pick your channel and do it well. You can build on that success by adding other channels in the future.
- Establish a routine. Commit fifteen to twenty minutes per day that can be focused on social media efforts. Once the routine is established it will be easier to be consistent and that is key to gaining social media traction.
- Get trained. If you’re new to social media or not particularly efficient at it, get some professional training. Learning some basics and some time saving tricks and tools will be worth the money. It will also save you headaches down the road. As an owner of a business, even if you are not going to be the main person doing the social media, you should know how it works. That way you can make sure what is being put out there reflects your business in the way you want.
Getting started in social media is not daunting if you take a step back and think about why you want to use it. Creating goals for social media will make it easier to know what social media channels and methods will be most effective. Once goals are set, areas that aren’t your expertise should become evident. Get help with what you don’t know so that you aren’t wasting time and money. Establish checkpoints along the way so that efforts can be evaluated. Social media is about building relationships. Be patient and continue to reach out to your networks and you will see a return on your investment.