What is Social Media and why is it important for Small Businesses?

What is social media and why is it important for small business?

Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.

People just like you and me are having conversations online right now.

24 hours a day, 365 days per year, every second of every minute.

According to Internet Live Stats and at the time of writing this post there are 1.37 billion active Facebook users. How many of those do you think are on Facebook right now and actively engaging with someone else? If we said that just 1% of those active users were currently engaged that would mean that 13 million 700 thousand real people were sharing the latest popular quote and commenting on how cute somebody’s baby is.

These stats are just for Facebook. What about Twitter? Google+? Pinterest?

What about *shudder* MySpace?

How many people do you know that don’t use any kind of social network? Compare that to everyone you DO know who uses social networks. Bit of a difference there…

So why should you care about active users and social statistics?

Because…

How many customers would you have without Facebook or Twitter?

If you have a page on Facebook with 30,000 likes, plenty of engagement and sales being made left right and centre then you’re obviously doing pretty damn well for yourself. Well done! Have a glass of bubbly and tell us your secret!

Now, imagine that Facebook or any other social network wasn’t around or suddenly went offline. How would you market your product to your target audience? Serious question. We’d love to know! Leave us a comment with your wisdom!

Why is social media important?

Being an active member of the social networking community isn’t about putting out faceless adverts telling people to buy your super amazing product or service. It’s about engaging others:

  • Sharing useful content such as articles (you can share this article if you’re feeling generous)
  • Sharing inspirational quotes
  • Sharing funny images (who doesn’t love grumpy cat?)
  • Helping others and getting help
  • Reaching out to people
  • Conversing on the latest trends such as Taylor Swift’s latest boyfriend
  • Showing that there is a human behind your business

I think you get it.

Do you remember the social media win by Virgin Trains regarding the, ahem, toilet incident?

Virgin Media train toilet incident.

Virgin Media train toilet incident.

Not only was this superb teamwork from Virgin Trains but it was also a simple conversation that went viral and was shared to millions of people. Just by simply helping someone out.

Above all, remember to be authentic and organic, answering questions in a straightforward manner – Richard Branson

Why a social media campaign may not be right for you

If your product or service is bad, social media will not save your business.

Sometimes when people receive bad customer service or have a complaint about something they will take to social media and tell the world about their world crushing issue rather than simply speak to the company to begin with. This is a bad move, but it happens. If it happens to you then you need to be there to address the issue and if need be try to fix it. Not only will the complainer be silenced, you will have social proof of being active and helping people publicly.

Perhaps you don’t need a social media campaign to be popular or maybe it’s not “tasteful”. Would a funeral director share their latest… um, project, on YouTube? Does a plumber need to be on Instagram? Oh goody, another blocked toilet!

Before signing up to each and every social network, think about what kind of content you will put on there and decide if it’s appropriate for you or not.

The pros and cons of using social media

Utilising social media for your business can be a life saver but it’s also not all bells and whistles. Here are some pros and cons:

Pros

Increase traffic to your website

You may already be getting a steady stream of traffic on your website. Then again, you may not. Being active and interesting on social media will drive traffic back to your website which is exactly where you want them, right? More traffic = more eyes on your product.

Gain an insight into your customers interests

Running a small business is incredibly difficult. Knowing what your customer wants from you is even harder! A little social stalking here and there will allow you to see what kind of questions your audience is asking and how you can help them. If you know what they like and don’t like, you can align your content to their interests.

Better Google rankings

Google has made it perfectly clear that it will give more Google goodness to websites and blogs with a strong social reach. What does this mean? It means that if you are active on social media and have plenty of fans with lots of shares of your content then you are seen as something of an authority. Being an authority or even having a half decent social following will help your website rise higher in the rankings because if it’s good enough for your audience then it’s good enough for Google.

Spy on the competition

You know who your competition is and so potentially does your audience. This is a good opportunity to have a look on their social network pages and see what they’re doing. What works well for them? Do it better! What doesn’t work well? Don’t do it.

Speak directly to your customers

If you have a physical shop then you have to rely on people walking through the door in order to interact with them. It’s the same with websites in that someone needs to be actively on your site for you to get a message across. Not on social media. You can reach out to them (without being spammy of course). You can actively engage with people on social networks in order to help them out, develop your brand and get your name out there. Even if it’s just getting involved in a conversation about how their cat ran into the patio door, getting involved is much more valuable than sitting quiet in the shadows.

Cons

Your competition is already doing it

They may have a great presence and have been doing it for a long time. But that shouldn’t stop you. Just because Coca Cola exists it doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy a Pepsi from time to time. You may have your work cut out for you in order to get a slice of the pie but you’re not the first and you won’t be the last. Just get stuck in.

Standing out from the noise

On top of the latest celebrity scandal, baby photo, cat video or meme there are also people talking about what they just ate and others sharing articles about the latest government cuts or blah blah blah… How can you possibly top all of that? There’s no way that your Organic Recycled Hand-Made Vegan Bracelet can compete with the screaming sheep. There’s nothing you can do about this, just create epic content and connect with others and you will get noticed. The fact is that everyone wants to get noticed so get involved and get posting!

It takes up a lot of time

In some ways you can schedule your social media, for example, when you schedule Facebook updates. However to be truly available and in the moment, you need to be online and active. This can be a HUGE time drain. The reality is that on top of creating and planning your content, you also have to answer messages and get involved with other peoples conversations. It’s hard yo! But hey, you could always let us manage your social media for you ;-)…

People can and may criticise your product

Going back to the unsatisfied customer who called you out publicly, this is one of the cons of using social media. It will happen… If you have a truly valuable product and plenty of happy customers then you just need to roll with the punches, hold your head high and resolve the issue. We all have issues with companies and have all made a complaint at one point in our lives. It’s business, not personal.

You may get hacked

If some dirty rotten scoundrel really wants to damage your brand they may consider hacking your accounts. Let’s admit it, when a large company has their accounts hacked it’s probably 90% hilarious and 10% terrifying. If a large company is vulnerable to attack then surely we are… right? Kind of. Hackers are not likely to bother with small businesses due to lack of publicity but it’s not something to rule out. Keep your passwords strong and enable 2-factor authentication where you can. Don’t end up being victim like poor Taylor Swift. P.S. this status is comedy gold:

https://twitter.com/taylorswift13/status/560151939296817152

How to give yourself the best start on social media

Here are some quick and simple steps to get started in implementing your social media presence.

Define your social media strategy

A social media strategy should be more about conversations rather than conversions. Relationships rather than sales. Usefulness rather than campaigns.

Which social media network should you be using?

Just like our plumber doesn’t need Instagram and the funeral director doesn’t need YouTube, there may be social networks that you too do not need. Check out this super helpful chart to help you decide what profiles to set up:

Which types of social networks should you use?
Source – Three Ships

Getting started in defining your social media strategy:

  1. Write down a list of all the social networks you want to use. Some of the most popular are:
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • LinkedIn
    • Pinterest
    • Google +
    • Tumblr
    • Instagram
  2. Sign up for each platform and completely fill in your profile:
    • Add a profile picture
    • Add a banner
    • Add a bio
    • Connect to your blog, website or other social networks
  3. Start adding/sharing content – Only you know what to write about. So go write!
  4. Decide your posting frequency – 1 post per week may be too little but 10 posts may be too much. This is probably something you need to test over time to see what works best with your audience. Alternatively, this comprehensive guide from Buffer may help you to decide your posting schedule
  5. Plan and create the content you want to share… but also be personable
  6. Reach out to others – Like other pages, follow other people, share other content. Make friends!

Define your voice

How do you want your business to be perceived? Do you want to be open and friendly or corporate and professional? Take the following for example:

“We develop soft toys that promote cognitive learning and stimulate a child’s creative ability.” – Formal and not very fun.

“Our cute teddies are not only adorable but they also help your baby to learn!” – Informal and interesting.

Decide now how you want to be perceived and define your “writing voice” to suit your business so that you can remain consistent and not confuse your audience later by changing it up!

Ensure your profiles are consistent

You want to ensure that the message you send out, no matter which platform you use, is consistent. Your “voice” should be the same everywhere. Your design should also be consistent. If you want a professional appearance across all your social network pages then think about hiring someone on oDesk to create your profile pics and banners. It’s a small investment but well worth it.

Also remember to keep your short bio message the same. Short and snappy is key here. People need to know who you are and what you do in the time it takes to read a tweet. Alternatively, create yourself a witty bio using the Twitter Bio Generator.

Twitter bio generator example.
First attempt, this is scarily accurate!

Speak to your audience

If people follow you on Twitter or like you on Facebook then they like what they see and want more of it. Make yourself available. Make people feel comfortable that they can ask questions and you will answer them helpfully. Also think about asking questions unrelated to your business that will promote discussion, for example:

Who’s hotter – Ryan Gosling or Jamie Dornan?

It’s not all about the latest celebrity crush though so just remember that your product matters too. Perhaps feature a case study about someone who has been helped by your product or service. Or even showcase how your product is being used? Use your imagination to share something fascinating!

Share useful content

You’ve heard this a thousand times. So have we. We’re sick of hearing it. Only you know what your audience loves and only you know what type of content works wonders in your industry. Hey, why not be a super helpful person and leave a comment letting us know what works on your social media sites?

Leave a Reply