Small Business & Social Media Series, Part 1: Getting Started

By Katie Kearsey You know social media is important for your small business – that’s why you’re reading the Likeable Blog.  You also know it takes work to be great on social, but you’re faced with limited time, budget and resources and you’re not quite sure where to get started.  This blog post is one in a series of four in which I will provide you with the necessary tools, tips, tricks and best practices to make your efforts in social the best they can be.

The first step to being a successful small business in the social space is to select your network carefully.  You shouldn't be on each and every network, but instead must cut through the clutter and determine which ones are best suited for your needs, and which ones are most doable in terms of time and effort required.  It’s important to choose a network that is in line with your business needs, but make sure it’s one you can be passionate about – no one wants to dedicate time to working on a network he or she dislikes.  You should know the main functions and uses of each network, your target demographic and the demographic found on each network, and how much time you realistically have to dedicate to social media.

Still unsure which network is right for you?  Here’s a brief rundown. Facebook and Twitter are great for engaging and interacting with fans, followers & customers, sharing multimedia content & information, providing customer service, offering contests & promotions, and driving traffic to your website and/or blog.  Twitter generally requires more time for community management, as it’s important to respond to and interact with followers in a timely manner.  Yelp is a great option for brick-and-mortar retailers, as it enables users to discover, review and share your amazing local business.  It also allows your business to monitor the page for honest feedback, to interact with customers publicly or privately, and to provide customers with up-to-date information about your business.  Other niche networks to consider include Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, LinkedIn and Google+.

Once you’ve selected your network(s), it’s time to plan your overall strategy, followed by a task breakdown on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  Establishing clear objectives and guidelines in the beginning is a major timesaver in the long run, as you’ll know exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it to meet your goals.

In terms of overall strategy, you’ll first need to determine what you’re trying to accomplish.  Are you aiming to drive sales?  Are you seeking community growth?  Are you looking to engage with fans, followers, current customers and potential customers?  Once you’ve decided upon your objective, you must figure out how you’re going to measure success using key performance indicators (KPIs).  You should also plan how often you’re going to post and how quickly you will respond to your fans and followers when they speak to you.

Tasks should be broken down into three tiers, daily, weekly and monthly, and should be kept somewhere for easy reference.  On a daily basis, you should sweep your social channel(s) at least 2-3 times, and you should respond to all fans and followers in a timely manner.  If you’re social ads, you should also monitor and optimize these 2-3 times each day (more details to come in a future post).  You should also spend 15 minutes searching for current events, articles and trends that are relevant to your small business or industry, and share them with your fans and followers.  On a weekly basis, you should monitor and track community growth and engagement to keep tabs of what is working and what isn’t working.  On a monthly basis, you should develop two to four weeks of content so you have something planned to share with your community each day.  You should also analyze all of your successes and failures to determine which strategies worked, which ones didn’t, and how your future strategy will change as a result.

With a network and initial strategy in place, you’re nearly ready to get started. The next post in this series will focus on a number of community management and reporting tools that will save you precious time and money.  Later in the series, you can also expect to learn tips and tricks for the content creation process, website socialization, and online/offline integration.  I will be concluding the series with a set of case studies of small businesses that have done big things on social media.  Stay tuned!

What are some challenges you face as a small business owner trying to get started in social media? Share with us in the comments below!

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