Gone are the days when a small business can just stick an ad in the Yellow Pages and expect the customers to come knocking on the door. These days, engagement is the key, and with huge numbers of your potential customers whiling away their waking hours on Facebook and Twitter, it pays to get your social media profile up to scratch.
Best of all, it’s free, so you’d be a fool not to give it a go, right? It only takes a few minutes to get up and running, so what have you got to lose?
The social media giant isn’t just about inspirational memes and baby photos. Setting up a page for your business can be a great way to connect with new customers and interact with existing ones. If you want to extend your reach, you can even pay for targeted advertising.
A Facebook page is a great place to post details of special offers, as well as photos and videos of your products and services. Customers can also leave glowing recommendations, or share your posts with their friends.
Be warned – Facebook can be time consuming and distracting. Tread carefully if you’re low on resources.
Twitter is a quick and easy way to interact with and present to potential customers. With just 120 characters per tweet at your disposal, you’ll need to keep it short and snappy – no bad thing. Beware of bombarding people, though. Any more than one or two well-timed tweets a day and you’ll start haemorrhaging followers. Add photos and links to relevant sites – especially your own – and you’ll greatly increase the click and retweet rate.
Contrary to what you might think, LinkedIn isn’t just for job-hunting. You can create your own Company Page as a marketing platform, and get involved in enlightening discussions about your field of interest. Build a profile, list your CV and services, network and make connections with peers or potential customers, all without leaving your desk. Pay a small monthly premium, and you get an advanced search function, plus the ability to contact anyone on LinkedIn with InMail.
Instagram and Pinterest
These can also be invaluable if you’re the kind of business that can entice potential customers with a well-taken photograph of the product you're selling. Similarly, YouTube may well work for you if you’re a company which can shine with a video showing off your technical prowess or artistic flair. Humour goes down well on YouTube, but test it on friends first.
The golden rules of social media
As you might imagine, social media can be a double-edged sword, and while you’ll be empowered to show off your flagship products and services, bear in mind that customers can now vent their collective spleens in public should the wheels fall off.
Here’s a few golden rules to bear in mind when you’re setting up and maintaining your company’s social media accounts:
- Make someone responsible for your social media, and work with them every day to get up-to-date content online. If it’s you, make sure your staff are aware of what you’re posting and encourage them to come up with ideas.
- Check and re-check anything before you post. Although you can edit or delete posts, you never know who might’ve taken a screen shot.
- Be informative, approachable and polite. This is the human face of your business. If you’re responding to a complaint, it’s not just the complainant you’re addressing – it’s everyone.
- Keep the page updated. There’s nothing worse than the online equivalent of a ghost town, or pages showing Christmas posts in spring.
- Stay on top of it. Engage with your customers. Re-tweet and share any compliments, and deal swiftly with any gripes, so everyone else can see how nice and professional you are. Checking Twitter and Facebook once a week isn’t enough – you could lose a valuable opportunity for more publicity or more business, or your reputation could have plummeted in between visits.
- Measure your reactions: why are you getting lots of re-tweets? Can you capitalise on the attention? Who’s checking your LinkedIn profile? Do you want to connect with them and start a relationship? How many Twitter followers and Facebook friends and Likes have you got? Make a point of celebrating when the numbers get high.