Social media is big business - you only have to look at Facebook’s gargantuan market value to realise that. If you are an entrepreneur, the chances are most of your customers - and potential customers - are already waxing lyrical on social media. So getting social is a must do.
Now, there are plenty of hangers-on who will promise to make you a big hit on the social scene. But the reality is that you don’t need to fork out a fortune. All you need is a bit of common sense and some good advice.
And, like any good adviser, I am willing to practise what I preach. I have just set up the Twitter account @smallbizhelp and, as I write, I can comfortably count my followers on my left hand. I am going to use the techniques outlined below to try and build a good following (any help, of course, gratefully received…)
Join the Social Gathering on Twitter
Listen: Find out what people are talking about. Use tools like Sprout Social (www.sproutsocial.com) to monitor what people are saying about your industry or sector. You can sign up to a free 30-day trial to try it out and start gathering feedback.
Learn: You need to learn what approach, style and content resonates with your potential new customers. This will be different for different businesses but there are some general principles we have found that work across the board:
- Collect and share interesting articles – and lots of them. If you become an important source of interesting information, more people will be interested in what you do.
- Connect, be friendly, be helpful. If somebody has a problem – give them support and advice. If somebody needs something, point them in the right direction (even if it isn’t to your website in the first instance). Build a rapport with your customers. In other words, don’t just sell, sell, sell – give followers objective, independent, and, above all, useful help and advice.
- Share great deals and freebies. Get your followers on your side. If you help them out, they will tell other people about you – and, hey presto, when you spread your wings, traffic can fly upwards. For example Sprinkles Cupcakes, a Californian bakery chain, kept its Twitter followers tuned in by posting “passwords” they could whisper at the checkout for free goodies…and 86,000+ followers later…
- Get people involved. We all love a good story – let your users tell theirs. Gather feedback, interviews, requests, surveys. Develop a loyal community.
- Check out what your rivals are doing or other businesses that have got great social presence in similar industries. If something is working for them – get on to it.
Build and Grow
There are a few resources that can help you maintain a hassle-free social media presence and grow your community:
- You can use Hootsuite.com to organise and schedule tweets – so you don’t have to be glued to your computer to keep up a strong social media presence.
- Use tools like www.twellow.com to find people and businesses with lots of followers. Follow them, engage with them, share with them. Get them to follow you and share your information with their followers. Connecting with a few big influencers can have a big influence on your traffic.
- Keep track of how you are doing with tools such as twittercounter.com so you know when you need to get more social.
- …and if you are too flat running your business, regular social media research into hot topics and things to share can be easily and cheaply outsourced. Websites such as ODesk.com and Peopleperhour.com are good starting points to find some keen researchers for a reasonable price.
Then regularly review and tweak. Find out what really works and go for it. Soon you could have thousands of loyal followers - and they can quickly turn into loyal customers.
Booking more business on Facebook
On Facebook the social currency is ‘likes’ – and the clue is in the name. Users need to like what you are doing and what you are offering. Providing exclusive discounts or promotions to Facebook users or access to free videos, guides or introductory products can work wonders. Take a step back and ask yourself a question.
If you didn’t know of your website or brand, what you would like and what you would share? The right offer can go viral quickly, so be innovative and take advantage of the free Facebook tools on offer - www.facebook.com/help/offers (but remember to make sure any offers make commercial sense for you).
Don’t forget the alternatives. If your products are unique or visually enticing, users may want to “pin” your photos on Pinterest.com (the rapidly growing online pinboard) or post engaging information to Reddit.com.
So over to you (and me) to build a new social scene…and entrepreneurs that have used social media to really help their enterprises, please feel free to share your personal tips and advice on how to help small businesses get bigger.
Andy is an experienced entrepreneur, business mentor, advisor and angel investor and helps a portfolio of exciting growth businesses reach their potential. Follow Andy on Twitter: @smallbizhelp.