Social media is here to stay. Just look at the numbers.
- Facebook – Over 1 billion users worldwide in only 10 years
- LinkedIn – 240 million active users worldwide with 3 million business pages
- Twitter – 560 million active users generating over 5,700 ‘tweets’ per second
- Google+ - 400 million active users with nearly 1 million new users added each day
And, social isn't just about personal connectivity. All of these sites have evolved into powerful engagement and marketing forums for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). But for many business owners, the challenge is in getting started.
- What are my first steps?
- Is there a cost? Do I need to advertise as well?
- What types of information should I put on my page(s)?
- What is my business going to yield from these efforts?
Step I – Setting Up Profiles
Step one for social media is building personal and/or business profiles for each site. You will need your business logo, a short-write up of what your business provides (products and/or services), basic contact information and anything else you feel differentiates your business or offer from the competition.
For Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, it’s best to build pages for both you and your business if you don’t have them already. With Twitter, it’s easier to just set up one ‘handle’ for your business. Once the pages are live, the choice is yours about what and how much you want to do. Note, once you’re in social, you should be social, so doing nothing is not an option.
I typically recommend that for the first week or so, observe the competition.
- Which competitors are in which networks?
- What is their engagement like?
- Overall activity and posts?
- Are competitors advertising in any of the social platforms?
Step II – Connecting
In the world of social media, connections come in many different formats. On Facebook, you connect with an individual as ‘friends’ or you can ‘like’ a company page. With Twitter, you ‘follow’ individuals, publications and organizations that interest you and you work to have customers, prospects and others ‘follow’ your ‘handle’. Google+ is a little different as you can connect with people and then add them to your ‘circles’. You can also ‘follow’ others.
In LinkedIn, you ‘connect’ with individuals and can ‘follow’ companies and/or content contributors. LinkedIn also offers another great connection opportunity, which are ‘groups’. Currently there are more than 2.1 million groups on Linked, ranging from marketing to crafts to alumni associations. There’s something for everyone for sure. LinkedIn groups are a great way to connect with industry peers, socialize content and ask questions of other and engage with other professionals. Depending on your industry and what your business offers, LinkedIn groups can also serve as a prospecting platform, provided it’s done through socialization and engagement and not direct solicitation or promotion.
Step III – Activation (Sharing in Social)
After your profiles are built and you’ve begun to connect with others, you will want to determine what types of information you are going to share or contribute in social. This can range from sharing company news or original content (like blogs) to promoting special offers or events to using social to respond to your existing customers. One thing to remember about social. Content should be relevant and targeted. More is not better. In fact, quantity, if it’s not strategic and resonating with your audience can easily turn people away from your page.
My recommendation for most is to hold off on paid advertising until you’re established in social. That will allow you to personally assess what potential may exist within social for your business.
Social media presents real opportunity for SMBs. Foundationally, they’re all free so the only expense is in the time to manage them. And, more and more, today’s customers have grown to expect social media presence from businesses. Don’t let social consume you – or your business – but understand the value that can come from a well-designed social presence and ongoing social engagement.