This column is written by Tara Palacios and sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.
Social media can be intimidating for a business. How often do you use it — if at all? Which platforms are your customers on? Is it a waste of time or do you get more business from your efforts?
In BizLaunch, we field questions from entrepreneurs regarding what are the most effective ways to use social media. How can you effectively get your message across in the clutter of the online world? How do you know you are reaching your target audience, and most importantly what role does social media play in sales?
First, think of social media as a part of your overall marketing plan. It can be an extremely useful tool in your toolkit if it is used wisely. Keep the below Top 10 Tips in mind as a handy guide to ensure that your business is getting the most out of your social media efforts.
Tip #1 — Identify which social media platforms your customers, competition, and industry colleagues are on.
You don’t want to be the only one at the party. Be present where members of your field are located. Business Decision is a free online tool offered by Arlington Public Library which can help you understand what social media platforms your target market is on.
For example, many businesses can be found on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not just for job seekers but a community to identify like-minded colleagues that can help grow your business. Artists, retailers and food-related businesses use Instagram and Pinterest (imagery) to promote their businesses to name just a few platforms.
Tip #2 — Understand the best time to reach your customers using social media.
As a business, you can see how effective your sharing of information is to your target market by immediately analyzing the analytics as to how effective a tweet or post has gone. What time did you send the information? When are most of your customers on social media? At the end of the work day? On the weekends? Make sure to monitor your social media content daily so that you can develop a strategy around “when,” is the most effective time of day to post your information.
Tip #3 — How often do you want to be on social media?
Come up with a plan and stick to it. You’ll want to be responsive to your customers; however, you’ll also want to be realistic about how much time you can effectively spend online. Think of social media as you would when you respond to emails or respond to phone calls. It is another way for your clients to reach out to you.
Depending on your industry you may want to schedule 3 posts per day or 3 posts per week. It really is dependent on how much and how often you would like or need to share information. The biggest key here is to stick with your plan. You can also use multiple platforms to distribute the same information.
Tip #4 — Use your authentic voice. Develop a voice for your business and keep with it.
Depending on how much time you have — you may want to design a social media guideline for employees, interns or staff who have control over your social media tools. Be personal (although be careful with the content you share) and engaging.
Keep content positive, and don’t respond to negative content until you can engage in an objective way. There are plenty of current examples of how not to respond on social media in the business community. Just don’t become an example of what not to do.
Tip #5 — Change your content regularly.
Don’t have a twitter business account, and have the last tweet your business has sent be the one in 2013 about an old product or service that you no longer carry or do. Your audience/customers/clients may think you are no longer in business. We recommend hiding an account that you don’t use rather than leaving the platform stagnant. The social media message you want to convey to the community on a regular business is updated regularly and meaningfully.
Tip #6 — Provide content that is meaningful and can easily be shared.
Social media is social. You want to provide information that others want to read. Communicate clearly and provide salient information that is important to others. Be concise. Directly ask your followers to share information that you want to be disseminated to a large group.
Paid content can also be extremely helpful to get your message across. Develop a social media budget and utilize the demographic tools to identify the target market you’d like to reach.
Tip #7 — Use videography and photography to convey your content in an interactive way.
Everyone loves to view images or watch short videos. By using photos and video content on your social media platforms will help draw customers to follow you. Smartphones make conveying your message easier without having to hire a professional. We have a smartphone videography class for businesses on November 9 at Arlington Independent Media.
Tip #8 — Use social media management tools to help manage the content you need to get out to your targeted audience.
Pick one day to pre-load content throughout the day, week or month. Social Media Management tools are a great way to strategize and plan how you disseminate information. It is also helpful to get analytics based on the information you are sharing. A recent article by Forbes lists the Top 15 Social Management Tools that might be the most effective for your business.
Tip #9 — Check your effectiveness on social media frequently.
There are plenty of free online tools available to see just how well your social marketing efforts are doing on an on-going basis. In business, you want to make sure what you are doing has a strong return on investment. The good news is there are several marketing tools that you can use to check your effectiveness.
Tip #10 — Have Fun!
Positive energy is contagious. Enjoy what you do and do it regularly. Also, if there are social media profiles you really enjoy — feel free to mimic what works best for them. Incorporating social media in an effective way will work well for your business too!
If you’d like more information about how best to utilize social media — the good news is BizLaunch is offering a Webinar on Social Media Best Practices on November 28 at 2 p.m.
Do you have social media tips you’d like to share that have worked for your business? If so, please share in the comments below.