How to use social media to grow your business

How to use social media to grow your business

Advice for small businesses on using social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and how to integrate them into the marketing and promotional strategy of your business.

Facebook says it now has over 1.2 billion regular monthly users, slightly up on the 1 billion figure it previously announced. This represents a growth factor approaching 25% from only a year ago! In addition, Facebook also claims to have over 750 million active monthly mobile users.

Whilst Facebook has become the most popular of all social media websites it's by no means the only one you should be exploring. LinkedIn, for example, announced early in 2013 that they had recently surpassed 200 million users, the majority of which can be classed as business professionals seeking jobs, employees, expert help or simply for business networking opportunities.

Twitter also offers the business user a simple and effective method to communicate snippets of information to a select group of followers. Make things interesting and the user base of these social networks will pass your message around for you!

If you're a business owner that hasn't yet embraced social media as a vital part of your business strategy, it's high time to take a deeper look...

How to use social media websites to grow your business:

Develop your Social Media Strategy.

So what exactly are the methods that business owners should be using to attract users of these social networks to their own businesses?

Well, before setting up your social media accounts it's important to consider what each site offers and how you'll benefit from their resources...

...and don't spread yourself too thin! If you have the ability to handle multiple social networking websites then great, if not you'll want to focus on just one or two, otherwise you'll end up suffering from a lack of activity and quality content, and trust me, your followers will notice!

My advice would be to start with the big three, that's Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. On the whole these sites are free to use so can offer the business user an excellent return on investment (investment being only your time to build up a reputation and following). Whilst all three offer the opportunity to part with your cash, with premium accounts or by way of advertising, at this initial stage it's not necessary.

All three of these social media networks also revolve around people (hence "social"). So before setting up your business page on each you'll want to ensure you have a private profile first. You'll then manage your business page from your private profile.

Here's a few tips to bear in mind when creating your business pages:

  1. If you're a sole trader / one man band type of business then don't be too afraid of including a few personal details, after all your customers want to know the "real you", so including a few personal touches will make you seem warmer and more personable. It will also help you to create a bond with the customer. Businesses try and keep it more professional, customers don't really want to know what employees got up to on Saturday night... keep that for your private profiles!
  2. Share photos and videos. Adding multimedia content to your page allows customers to see inside your business. This can have the effect that the customer may feel they already know you or have experienced your work first-hand. Keep the content professional, so again, no Saturday night photos.
  3. Content is key! Add fresh content as often as possible. Keep it informative, interesting, current and relevant. Where possible use offers and incentives in order to encourage your followers to pass it around. Let them do the hard work for you. Make sure you update any out of date content too, there's nothing worse than incorrect information on an official page!

Marketing through social media networks isn't as much about selling, as it is about engaging your followers. You have to think beyond the service / product you are offering, the goal of the community-based environment of social networks is to provide the user with a platform for open, honest conversation and feedback.

Businesses that are more successful at converting followers into real customers are those who interact most with their user base and frequently post content related to their brand. It's no good just setting up your social media pages and sitting back hoping the community will come knocking.

Things you should be doing once you are active on social media websites:

  1. Comment on other users content or posts. By responding to what your followers post on your profile you'll show them, and the wider community, that you are active and appreciate their interaction. If they know you care they'll keep coming back.
  2. Ask questions on your profile. Users love to give their opinions on everything. You'll be surprised by how many responses a simple question can elicit! It will snowball the more users respond, as their friends / followers also get involved.
  3. Post your services / products to community pages (of which there are many). You'll find people looking for services, advice and help, point them in the right direction and they'll remember you. The wider community will also take note.

Social network promotions.

Remember these are "social" networks and not sales pitch networks. Don't be an overbearing or pushy salesperson when dealing with potential customers. Be genuine and personable.

When promoting your business through social media you should be doing the following:

  1. Make the customer feel the promotion is benefit-based. By this I mean that they feel a need to participate in the promotion or at least pass it on. Make the promotion available for a limited period, make it limited to the social network on which you posted it and make it worthwhile.
  2. Make the promotion easily understandable. Make the service / product you're offering easily understandable / identifiable. If your service / product is unique then say so and explain why.
  3. Include a discount. Users want something tangible that sets you apart from the rest. This also gives them the incentive to share your promotion with their own friends and followers. Using discounts also allows you to monitor how effective your promotions are, so ensure you make each promotional code / voucher unique to the promotion it refers to.

Don't do the following:

  1. Don't repeatedly push "sales style" messages / posts. Rather, try asking questions about the service / product you are offering and give responses (including your service / product) as a possible solution.
  2. Don't set up an expectation then fail to deliver. If you offer advice freely then give it, don't treat this as an invite to push your service / product. Make the sale subtle - how your service / product can help them achieve their goal.

And finally, social networking can be a fun way of growing your business. So enjoy the time with a whole new bunch of people you may ordinarily never have had the opportunity to interact with.

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