In creating and identifying the Social Media Strategy for your small business, it’s important to identify your goals and what kind of message you want to communicate. An example of an organization that has done an excellent job of this is Coca-Cola. A small business such as a start-up might do well by scaling down such a strategy because it has proven to be so successful.
In developing a Social Media Strategy, it’s important for a business to understand that SM is part of an integrated marketing plan to increase brand recognition and a base of customer loyalty. A small business will have unique needs, so here are a few recommendations for Social Media Marketing Principles:
1. Commit to consistent and responsive communication.
2. Remain transparent to gain/retain the trust of customers.
3. Recognize your limitations.
4. Be mindful that your responses represent the company.
5. Be responsible with SM and don’t let it interfere with necessary business operations.
6. Listen to what is being said about you.
7. Be integrated with offline marketing efforts and communications.
Having covered Social Media Management, I’d like to move on to Social Media Monitoring. When running a small business, particularly a start-up, it’s vital to know what customers are saying about you. Of course there are many tools available to tell you who is talking about you, but I’d like to highlight a couple that are appropriate for the SM needs of a small business.
A popular SM Monitoring tool that is used for personal interest and business reasons is Google Alerts. By creating an alert search for the topic of your choice through your Google account, (ex: your company or a new product), Google creates an automated search of the topic and sends you email alerts when new mentions of your topic are found. For a small company, this could be a cost effective (free) way to learn when and where the company and/or its products are mentioned. Additionally, with Google Alerts, a small business could swiftly identify and take action against false negative comments posted online.
Another free Social Media Monitoring tool is Addictomatic, where you can enter a key word such as your company and it will search blogs, news sites, Google, Digg, YouTube, Flickr, and more. With your personalized results, you’ll also be given a page where you can bookmark the results. Such a tool is a better fit for a small business than a monitoring tool that just concentrates on Twitter for example. By searching all popular SM sites, Addictomatic can find more mentions of a small company, which would provide more extensive feedback.
While there are more SM Monitoring tools available than I can count, very few are appropriate for small businesses. The tools that I have highlighted are not only free but they give a broad snapshot of what is being said about a small company online. Understanding what is being said and where it’s happening gives a small company such as a start-up the opportunity to reach out and draw in more business.
As I mentioned in my last post, starting a SM strategy with the basic channels such as Facebook or Twitter is much more manageable than joining every network possible and inevitably becoming overwhelmed. The problem with starting a business is that there’s so much to do, that it usually doesn’t take much to get overwhelmed. Luckily, there is a solution…for your social media needs that is. Social media management is a strategy tool to help businesses manage multiple social media accounts at once. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 in that you connect to your social media accounts, publish content to each account with one click, and track your activity and metrics. Talk about time saving!
The most difficult part of using social media management may be deciding what tool to use. One particular SMMS service that stands out for small businesses such as start-ups is TweetDeck. TweetDeck is a free application for Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Foursquare, Google Buzz, and LinkedIn. TweetDeck essentially acts as a universal browser to connect the user to various social media networks. A start-up could save time and create a universal message by connecting Facebook and Twitter to TweetDeck so that status updates and posted photos appear simultaneously on both accounts. Additionally, TweetDeck can save additional effort by customizing columns for any group or topic that might be worth following for the business.
The social media strategy of a start-up is integral in establishing a network of customers that will grow. It’s important to provide timely updates if you want to keep followers interested. Using a SMMS tool will help a small business to maintain an integrated and consistent marketing message across the SM networks a business might have. Using a service such as TweetDeck would aid in social media effectiveness because it eliminates the time necessary to update and track multiple accounts. When you’re short on time and funds, you couldn’t ask for a better boost for your marketing strategy!
Congratulations…you’ve realized your dreams by starting your own business! Chances are that at this point, you have a pretty tight budget. So what do you do when you can’t afford to spend a lot to reach new customers but you need to bring in sales to continue to operate? You look into social media and social media marketing of course!
With the vast sea of social media options, it is important to create a plan or strategy in order to be an effective SM player. Identify the appropriate outlets that will reach your potential consumer base. Try not to overwhelm yourself because an unused SM account says worse things about your company’s message than not having an additional account. In other words, I’m trying to imply that you should only utilize as many SM networks as you can stay active with. It’s important to communicate with customers and really listen to what they are telling you.
You may start your SM adventure in a small way like 1 in 5 small business owners with just Facebook or LinkedIn, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Take the time to learn and grow with SM and hopefully you’ll sprout enough of a following to consider Twitter or Flickr…essentially let your SM strategy grow as your customer base does.
It’s hard for me to believe, but I’ve finally managed to set up my blog. Now I’m one step closer to a complete SM tool kit – what a great feeling! In this blog, I’ll cover how social media can be used to help start-ups gain awareness and grow. Although we sometimes only recognize the use of SM by global corporations, it can also be a great marketing outlet for start-ups and I intend to highlight how it can best be used. Stay tuned!