SOCIAL media is a tricky business for small businesses — how do you build a virtual following and engage your audience, without annoying them?
It’s a fine line, say experts, who claim it’s all in the delivery.
It’s not called ‘social’ for nothing.
Business coach and social media specialist Des Walsh says you wouldn’t choose to be intrusive or boring at a barbecue or lunch, so don’t do the same online.
“Find out how to participate in conversations on social media — share information and ideas without constantly saying ‘buy my stuff,” Walsh says.
“That way you will build trust and people will recommend you.
“Don’t follow the businesses who see social media as just a kind of bigger megaphone.”
He says social media is another way of saying ‘the world of business has changed forever’.
“If that is a problem for you, get over it, or accept that if your way of doing business does not adapt — your customers will drift away sooner or later.”
Be the boss — in a cool way
“Take the lead,” Walsh says.
“One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is to leave the social media part of the business to junior staff, on the basis that they know how it works.
“They may, but they don’t know your business, your products, your services, the way you do.”
He says you have to be willing to learn, and don’t be afraid to ask your younger staff to show you how outlets things like Facebook and Twitter work.
“You might be surprised when you realise they think it’s cool that you want the firm to move with the times!” he says.
Only fools give up
“Be strategic and play the long game so you don’t get disappointed when you don’t get instant results, because you almost certainly won’t,” he says.
“If someone comes and offers you social media services, get them to demonstrate to your satisfaction that their approach fits your business and your priorities.
“Once you get into it, there is no magic about social media — get confident in using one platform at a time.
“You don’t have to worry about making a fool of yourself: at the start, just listen, then listen some more, then when you feel confident, join in the conversation. “You will be way ahead of your competitors who think they can learn how to use social media from going to a business breakfast or a lecture somewhere.”
Don’t be a jack-of-all-trades and master of none
Social media expert Michael Grierson from BuzzNumbers says you have to choose the best network to suit your business and your audience — and it may not be Facebook or Twitter.
“Instagram is currently the best-performing social network for marketers and Pinterest generates more referral traffic for goods retailers than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined,” he says.
“Teens are spending their social time on Snapchat and Tumblr as they look to hide from their parents who hang out on stuffy old Facebook.
“Whatever choice you make, it’s important to be fully committed to your new asset.
“A brand page that looks like a ghost town with old content and unanswered questions from customers will do a business more harm than good.”
Check in, and start a conversation — and take shortcuts
“People aren’t just going to magically start following your new asset — you need to make yourself visible in order to be found,” Grierson says.
“Look for where people are having conversations about your product or service — join in the conversation and show your expertise, share customer satisfaction stories and generally build positive and lasting awareness.”
He says Facebook check-ins are an important tool to use, and equate to word of mouth in overdrive.
“Your customers’ locations will then be seen by their online friends and will be perceived as endorsements,” he says.
“Set up signs to remind people to check in and consider offering a small bonus for those who do — the results will be worth any small investment.”
Remember, it’s not all about you
“When posting to social media, you are interrupting people in their leisure time,” he says.
“They don’t want to be sold to when relaxing at home or bored on the bus.
“Offer content that adds value to your potential customers’ social media experiences.
“Behave just like one of their friends — friends who constantly yell ‘20% off this week’ or ‘buy one, get one free’ are ignored and unfriended very quickly.”
He says if you must sell, save it for special occasions or big sales.
“The boy who cried wolf affect is present in social media — do it all the time and it loses its impact,” Grierson says.
“Act like any other Facebook friend and offer content that is of value to your network.
“This often will not be about your business, but things your fanbase might find interesting.”
Social media is a effective tool and small business must make use of it effectively.