Managing a small business means you have a unique place in the world – not only are you doing what you love, but you also hold a lot more responsibility: marketing, finance, HR, and more. It’s a tough place to be, but worth it if you’re an entrepreneur at heart.
I learned the most about founding a marketing agency in 1998, and a PR analytics company in 2013. My marketing agency had the advantage of working with technology companies and influencers, so we were always a little ahead of the curve when it came to new tech.
In 2007, we were following influencers onto Twitter, for example, and learned the platform very early on, identifying it as a future business tool when others did not. We quickly realized we needed to use Twitter for ourselves, just as we were blogging and posting on Facebook and LinkedIn. The challenge, of course, was managing our business objectives while also making sure our social presence was consistent and persistent.
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It’s important to have a social strategy. Let me emphasize strategy. Too many businesses jump into social networks just because they see everyone else doing it, but they don’t really think about how it’s going to help their business (or hinder it).
Here are tips on managing a social strategy without hindering your small business.
- Identify your business goals. Before you can begin to plan your social strategy, you need to recognize what your business goals are and what you are trying to accomplish through social. Is it purely focused on prospecting? Are you trying to service customers? Are you recruiting? Each business goal will equate to a different approach to your social strategy.
- Be realistic about your resources. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen small businesses repeatedly make in social media is to suddenly sign up for every latest, “hot” social network … only to never do anything with it. As a small business, you have to be particular about where you can distribute resources. Realistically assess who can dedicate the time to manage each social network you take on. Don’t feel like you have to be everywhere all the time – it’s better to deliver quality content over quantity. You don’t want to sign up and establish a presence only to have one update and disappear from your fans. It’s better to look like you are selective about your presence and not show up at all.
- Think like your customer. Consumers and businesses are bombarded with information and content today. Think about what grabs your attention. Do you enjoy reading long emails or heavy content, or do you appreciate fast, to-the-point and resourceful snippets? Are your customers looking for thought leadership and analytical pieces, or are they more interested in weekly deals? Recognize the difference between social strategies and tailor your approach to your customer.
- Understand there is no magic wand. Many executives think that suddenly joining Facebook, Twitter or Instagram means they will be flooded with new business, sales and customers. Social media is not a magic wand – it’s a great way to affordably market, sell or provide customer service, but it also takes effort, time, consistency and resources (read: money and people) to make it a successful resource for your small business.
- Consult experts and do your research. Avoid the “gurus,” but do reach out and ask well-known social media consultants if they can provide you with some initial advice. Some do offer short-term projects where they can provide an initial audit (if you have a social presence already), and assess how you could be doing things differently or better. There are also a ton of great, free resources and tips from experts like Mari Smith (Facebook guru) and piles upon piles of “Top Expert” lists. Just be sure they are written by a credible source. (Anyone can compile a “top” list – so be careful.) Follow these folks, engage with them, read their blogs – so many give great, free advice on a daily basis.
- Measure success. Test and vet different social strategies and measure success. What’s really driving awareness, interest, and sales? Is social more of a thought leadership effort for you and if so, how can you combine it with other marketing efforts to create the greatest impact? If you’re working with an outside expert or agency, be sure to ask them for monthly reports on growth, referrals and strategies. Social media is very measurable and as long as you pay attention to its impact, you’ll find great success using it to grow and sustain your small business for a reasonable investment.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and potential of social media for your business. But it’s crucial that you remember your original mission, your customers and what is truly driving the growth of your business. While there may not be a one-size fits all strategy, when managed correctly social media can help your business tremendously.
Christine Perkett is a senior marketing and PR consultant, and the founder and CEO of SeeDepth, a PR Analytics platform that makes measurement easy, meaningful and profitable for PR agencies and corporate communications teams. She has been named a “Top 100 Must Follow Marketing Mind” in Forbes, “A Top 100 Small Business Influencer” in the Small Business Influencer Awards and a “Top 50 Social Media Influencer on Twitter” by Cision.