As with any sort of social interaction there are do’s and don’ts. There is a right way and a wrong way. There is formal and informal. And in social media there is such thing as a faux pas. As for the bigger picture, what is the acceptable behavior and how do you conduct your business in such a way? It’s quite simple – creativity and originality. For small businesses it is just as important to recognize what not to do as it is what to do.
#1 – Social media is not the place for a hard sale. For small businesses, every dollar counts in terms of advertising and closing nearly every sale is important. These are fact, however social media channels are neither the time nor place to sell your products. That is not to say that you cannot do this ever, but your main focus needs to be on building relationships. That means you need to build trust through such things as, answering questions, providing useful and relevant content thus to be seen in the eyes of the consumer as a trustworthy and reliable source. This sort of activity should encompass 90-95% of your presence on social media.
#2 – Don’t be self promotional. Your content needs to engage your audience. It needs to spark conversation and spark activity among the visitors to your site. With that being said, your channels need to be friendly towards them allowing them to give their input and provide feedback. Incorporate comment boxes and other tools into your blog, facebook etc. Ask questions and encourage your audience to participate. Show that you really care about their opinion (and if they are your potential customer, well then you should care) and allow them to express it. That old saying, you were given two ears and one mouth for a reason, applies to social media. Sometimes its better to listen than to talk. Keep your content informative, relevant and easily shareable.
#3 – You don’t have to be everywhere. Sure you want to be in as many places as you can to up your SEO and up your reach, but don’t spread yourself too thin. You should not be on so many channels that the quality of your content becomes sacrificed. This is a major faux pas that many small businesses make. You must pick your battles and pick them carefully. Find a few, maybe 2 or 3 (start off small then work bigger) places to get started. These channels should be where you can best showcase your company. Take these sites and practice not only doing them but doing them well. 2 sites operating near perfection are way better than 6 sites operating at half capacity. New social media channels sprout up almost daily and keeping up with every single one is overkill. Just remember, big things have small beginnings.
#4 – Don’t worry about keeping up with big brands. Nike spends close to $800 million on advertising in the U.S. but chances are your small business has a few less dollars in your ad budget. With that said you don’t have to feel compelled to match these big brands with all the prizes, giveaways and promotions they do. For example when Apple has a free iPad 3 give away, you don’t need to match that promotion with your business and run yourself to the ground. Promotions and give away’s are always a great way to generate activity, so start with a service or product from your business. This way you will attract customers who are actually interested in your brand.
#5 – Social media isn’t necessarily free. Its free to make a Facebook account and a Twitter account but they don’t post themselves. Creating these accounts happens with the click of a button, but managing them is a full time job. We often forget to log and keep track of all the hours we put in to our channels and the man power it takes to run them. The ROI is not as clear cut as other investments, but it’s definitely there. All it takes is work and that’s the key principle of it all. Maintenance. Be weary and don’t overlook both the importance of social media nor the commitment it requires. It’s a full time job, so it should be treated like one.
So we’ve outlined the don’ts, the wrong ways, the informal behavior, now its time to start doing social media correctly. The opportunities for small businesses to grow are out there. Take advantage of them sooner rather than later.
Feature photo credit: @ horsplay1213