Having a small business doesn’t mean that you have to do things on a small scale. With the wide spread use of social media, or what some people call conversational media, you can get your message out to the public in a big way.
Take a look at some of the bigger brands out there—JetBlue, Burger King and Skittles. They all know that social media will help them brand their image and get them closer to their consumers. Small businesses can learn a lot from them. By learning what your consumers want and need, it will only help you better customize your marketing plan.
JetBlue uses Twitter as a market research tool to find out what customers are saying about the brand. Burger King utilizes Facebook to get feedback from customers and to hold special promotions. And Skittles uses a variety of social media including Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Wikipedia and more.
Skittles actually discarded its traditional web site and now utilizes social media to get its message out by using its consumers to promote the brand!
These large brands are doing it, how can you start? Whether it be LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, Twitter or Identi.ca, select which social networking sites are right for your business. Explore a variety of sites and learn their demographics. Is the population the right target for your business?
Do your homework. Create a google analytics account for your business and find out what is being said about you and your competitors.
Next, open up three or four social networking accounts and link them together so that you only update on one site many times a day.
At the same time, spend ample time building your community. Ask yourself the following questions:
• Why am I building this community?
• What am I trying to promote?
• Who will use this site and what will it do for them?
• Who will build this community? (One person should spearhead the effort.)
• Will my community interact with each other?
• What if my community criticizes my product or me? (You can’t control your community because each member has a voice. The more a company welcomes—even celebrates—criticism, the stronger it bonds to its community.)
• What ideas and opinions will you share?
• How will you market and publicize the community?
By building a community and marketing to it, you will be known as an authority on the topic because you are the founder of the community. In other words, as the founder, you are the one with the knowledge on the topic and it makes you the expert.
Make sure to join various groups that relate to your industry. Also, join groups that you may have an interest in. For example, if you love to golf or ski, you may want to join one of these groups. You never know who will be in the group that you can network with.
Get to know people through these social networking sites. The more you update the sites, the more people will find you as well. Further, make sure that you get conversations going and engage your audience.
In addition to social networking sites, don’t forget about audio or video podcasts. They are relatively easy to do and require very little outlay of cash.
For an audio podcast, all you need is a recordable MP3 player and a lavaliere mike. Editing software can be found free. Try Audacity or GarageBand; both work like a gem.
For video podcasts, get a flip video camera for under $100. Editing software is included with the camera.
Once you have your podcast ready, post on your social networking sites and make sure to let everyone know that it is up.
Remember to either create a blog or guest blog on an established site. To create a blog, go to Blogger.com or WordPress.com. There you can quickly and easily set up a blog.
Determine what you want to blog about. It could be about small business topics, travel, motherhood or fashion. Pick a topic and try to stick with it.
Your first post should be an introduction as to who you are, and why you are blogging. To help build up your community, microblog the post to your social networking community.
If you decide to go the guest blog route, do a search on Google or any other search engine. Type in the particular industry that you want to blog about and a list of relevant blogs will come up.
Lastly, once you start with social media, you can’t stop. It’s important to have a consistent message. Remember to measure, analyze and adapt to your current social media plan. This should take place at least six months after you started the activity.
To recap, here is a timeline that you can use to address your social media needs:
• Research what is being said about your company and your competitors
• Determine which social networking sites work for you
• Open up at least four accounts and link them together with an aggregator
• Determine if blogging is for you or if you would be better off guest blogging
• Don’t forget to do an audio or video podcast
• Microblog and don’t stop with your efforts
Social media is a cost-effective way to promote your business. Whether you have a small business, non-profit organization or large corporation, social media helps you get in front of your target market and enables you to better understand your audience. •