Many small business owners I encounter are either too busy for social media, or they don’t truly understand Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, for example.
But I am a small business owner and entrepreneur, who truly embraces the unique opportunity that social media offers. Nothing else gives me such a direct way to "talk" with my clients and their community on a daily basis. People are what brought me into business in the first place.
Over the past few years, I have made it a point to explore and understand the social web around me.
And whilst I’ll be the first to admit is always something left to learn, here are a few key lessons I have discovered so far:
Your Customer knows best
Social media has little to do with you;
it’s all about your audience, customers,
or whomever you’re trying to reach.
The motto ‘think like your customer thinks’ is very real, if you want your business to be successful. The same holds true in social media.
Not sure where your customers are on the social web? Just ask. Early on, I found myself asking clients, if they were using any social networks. Most of the time, this simple question led to an interesting conversation and great insight on how I could take part and provide value.
Social Media isn’t necessarily Free
Social media is attractive to small businesses because of its perceived price. One can set up a new blog, fan page, video site, and Twitter account without paying anything. Although there is a low price tag to start, social media is far from free. It requires time, energy, and effort. It’s a never-ending commitment to create interesting content, listen to conversations, and respond.
Instead of rushing to join any and every social media community out there, I prefer the slow and steady approach. I tend to pick one or two communities that are important to my client's market. Then we determine their key goals together and define who will be responsible for providing content to keep activity going day in and day out.
Just remember that your time is valuable. This new way of marketing is far from free.
Don’t measure success by Follower or Friend Counts
Starbucks has more than 1.3 million followers on Twitter. You probably don't, and that's OK. As a small business, you shouldn’t get caught up in the numbers game or try to keep up with the big brands. Growing your community is important, but you should be focused on who is engaging with you and at what levels. In the long run it’s more important to have a devoted, enthusiastic community. Be patient. It’s organic growth that matters. Things don’t (and won’t) happen overnight.
Social Media does not equal Self-Promotion
To be honest - an initial experiment with social media will not necessarily be too successful. You can spend all your time posting and tweeting about your company, your news, and services. And the process can become incredibly frustrating and show little results for your efforts.
It wasn’t until I began working with some very smart people that I realised two things:
I needed to show the person behind the company and I needed to focus on my customers and not my company. Hence I began searching the web for people looking for help and began offering advice and information.
That was my "ah-ha" moment, and when social media began clicking for me.
Learn from the Experts
Don’t be a copycat. Beyond any ethical considerations, there is an effectiveness issue. Just because something worked for one company doesn’t mean it is going to work for you. You need to consider learning from the work of others, while tailoring their experiences to your own particular needs, goals, and customers.
Get help without losing your Identity
As a business owner, I know you simply cannot take care of everything. You simply can’t be an expert in everything. You hire employees to specialise in or take care of certain areas of your business and you contract outside help for other jobs as well.
There is tremendous value in hiring a social media specialist to help you.
In my particular line of business, I like to be in control of establishing a true and personal relationship with my clients and create networks relevant to their business. I often play a large role in defining my client’s messages and content for their relevant communications, as well as engaging with every tweet and post or comment directly.