How to make a name for your business on social media

Person on computerSocial media, there's no getting away from it. Kids are getting into it younger, grannies are getting their own profiles, but where does this leave you and your business?

In a nutshell, it gives you unprecedented access to your customers, and potential new ones. 

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We chatted to Ian Betteridge, social media expert and Senior Content Strategist at Dennis Publishing, about how to get your business out there on social media and what it can really do for you.
 

How social media can help your business

Ian explains: "Social media can do many things for a small business. It's a marketing tool, allowing you to promote your product or service to customers and non-customers alike. It can also make supporting and servicing customers easier, as you can engage with customers who have had problems and help them. And it can also be a direct sales tool. The key thing to remember is that although social media can do all these things, you might not want it to – you might, for example, just want to focus on using it to support customers."

So, there's more to social networking than posting the odd pic and status update. Like all good marketing strategies, your social networking plan should be carefully honed to ensure you're giving customers the right impression of your brand, at the right time.

Take a look at how to choose the social media platforms that are right for your business and how to use them. Then, it's time to get started. Ian has pulled out these key things to think about when it comes to your business' social media. 


What to consider when setting up social media for your business

Where to start

You are probably on social media of one kind or another almost every day anyway – after all Mumsnet is social media! When it comes to social media for your business, you need to approach it with goals in mind, something that you wouldn't ordinarily do in a personal context. While it's OK to inject your personality into your tweets, posts etc, making it solely about you personally won't help you achieve your business goals.

Like with all marketing material, the branding of your social media profile needs to be seamlessly consistent. Go back to the decisions you made when you were first deciding how your business' web presence would take shape. What's your business tone of voice? Are you jokey? Are you unwavering in your professionalism? Whatever you have decided, this needs to be mirrored in your business' social media. This goes for the way your business looks too – when it comes to customising your profile page, stick to your brand guidelines and use the colour palette, logo, and fonts you have chosen.

 

Making sure people find you

First things first, there are no shortcuts. Don't expect to create a Facebook page and instantly have lots of people find it. You'll need to initially promote whatever you're doing on social media. Make sure your Facebook page, Twitter account, and so on are on your email footer, any printed marketing material, such as business cards, and that you mention them at any speaking engagements and even put them on PowerPoint slides.

Building your profile is also about brand affiliation – choosing opinion-formers, brands and associates to follow or ‘friend' that are a good fit with your brand. By connecting with relevant people, you are giving customers a broader sense of what your business is about. Make sure you connect actively, too – that means sharing their articles, replying to updates and so on.

 

What to say, and when to say it

First of all, be authentic. Avoid sounding corporate, and any kind of marketing or business-speak. You should sound like a real person, rather than a faceless company.

Second, be interesting and useful. People aren't following you to hear about what you had for lunch, but they are following you because they're interested in your company and what you sell. That doesn't mean you have to always talk about products – but show your expertise in the area you work in – take a look at how to establish yourself as an expert with your customers.

Finally, try not to autopost the same things across different social networks. It's likely that some people who follow you on Twitter will also follow on Facebook, and autoposting means they see the same things over and over again. That's not a great experience for them.

There's no blanket rule for how often you should post, but you should aim to post something at least daily, and preferably multiple times per day. But more important than the number of posts is the time they're posted – for example, if your customers are most likely to be engaging with social media in the evening, schedule your posts for then using a tool like HootSuite rather than posting early morning. Monitor your posts and see which ones get the best responses, and post more around that time.

 

Social media - a bit negative?

Posting isn't a one-way street – this is your chance to build dialogues and drive customer engagement. If you do get negative comments or feedback, don't take it personally – one of the most common mistakes that small businesses make when responding to negativity is to treat it as if it was a personal attack. Instead, be polite, and try and find out more details about what has prompted the negative comment. Try and respond quickly and positively, but be honest: if you don't know the answer to something, it's OK to say that as long as you also say you're going to look into the problem (and of course, make sure you do!). You can always suggest taking your conversation offline, and trying to resolve it over the phone or via email – this can help if you need to go into detail in your response or you need to get some specific information from your customers in order to help.

If you think that a comment or post has gone beyond constructive criticism into abusive territory, look into the policy of the particular channel and either report the user or block them. This measure should only be used for genuinely inappropriate commenting or contact – it is not a way to hide negative feedback.

 

Top tips for social media

  1. You're in it for the long haul, and you need to engage with social media as often as possible.
  2. Spend 80% of your time listening and responding, and 20% of your time posting new things.
  3. Don't be afraid to engage with people who have negative things to say about your business. Be polite, try and find out what's gone wrong, and deal with it if you can.
  4. Experiment. Post different kinds of content – links, pictures, even video – and find out what works. Try posting at different times of the day, and see if it makes a difference to your response.
  5. Measure. Track the number of Likes or followers you have, how many people respond or comment, and how much traffic you get to your site through social channels. Measuring is the only way to know for sure whether you're doing it right – so make sure you do it, right from the start.

Last week we covered support on building your website; if you missed it, take a look at the Online Business Fortnight support on building your website, and remember to keep in mind how your social media can work with your site from day one.


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Last updated: 29-Jan-2014 at 10:46 AM