Social Media for Your Business – Lots to LIKE

Social MediaAs a startup or small business owner, you already know there’s a lot marketing to get done with extremely limited resources. Traditional marketing methods can be a big drain on your budget. Social media marketing is a low-cost alternative and provides a direct line to current and prospective customers. Social media is all about connecting with your audience – in an authentic way. Start by defining your audience and understand their profiles – age, gender, interests, professions, buying habits, and all other relevant information. Your goal is to help your readers, by giving tips they can use – sharing information to help them solve problems. When you provide valuable and relevant information, people will start viewing you as an expert.

Create your messages based on your target audience, and the key problems or concerns you can solve for them? Expand on and define the pain points. Once you’ve defined your audience and messages, you should try to figure out which social networks they prefer. All social media channels are not the same, each has a slightly different focus and primary audience – understand the differences so you can put your efforts in the right place.

Your social networks should work together to help you achieve your goals. Don’t limit your success by treating each social media platform as a stand-alone effort. Your website is your brand’s home base, use your social media efforts to push people to your website where they can buy your products or services. Use a blog to build your brand’s voice and share helpful information. It’s a valuable opportunity to engage with your site visitors and convert them into customers.

You can optimize your website and blog for social media by adding a couple simple elements to your design. Make sure you display social icons in your header or sidebar (they allows visitors to link directly to your profiles) so they can start following you immediately. Even more importantly, make sure to include social sharing buttons on both your pages & posts so visitors can easily share your content. When people share it with their friends and followers and you have the opportunity to reach a much wider audience.

Choose the best social media channels for your business

Don’t t jump in to a whole bunch right away – start with one or two to begin with, then add others as you go. Here’s a list of some of the most popular:

Facebook has photos, messaging, chat, reviews, and more. Most people tend to use Facebook for their personal lives rather than for their professional ones. Almost 70% of Americans are using Facebook – most appealing to females ages 18-30. It’s great for posting helpful articles and resources, behind-the-scenes photos, deals, events & happenings. Facebook is best suited for local businesses, B2C businesses, and ecommerce sites.

Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows you to share your thoughts with the world in 140 characters. Twitter appeals to men and woman ages 18-30 and tend to be urban dwellers. Post helpful advice, ideas, links to great content, and support great responses. Good for B2B companies, tech companies, online businesses, local businesses, or just about anyone who is an expert on a topic.

Pintrest is a virtual pin-board that lets users “pin” photos and articles they like organized by categories. Generally for college-educated women, under 5 . Post beautiful images, innovative ideas, and crafts. Great for sole proprietors, lifestyle businesses, selling pretty stuff, and design-focused companies.

LinkedIn is the professional social media site where users connect with co-workers and contacts. Post jobs, find jobs, recommend each other, and get industry-related content. Used by professionals of all ages, recruiters, HR, employees, job hunters. LinkedIn has over 2 million groups related to business subjects. Great for B2B, tech, startups, and online businesses.

Instagram is a photo-sharing mobile app that allows users to filter and beautify photos and then send to others. Used mostly by under 35, 70% female, living in urban areas. Post beautiful pictures, cool ideas, and fun pics. For ecommerce sites, those who sell pretty stuff, B2C, lifestyle companies, sole proprietors.

Reddit is where users submit links and content. These posts are voted up or down – based on how much people like them. Used by mostly young males for insider secrets, funny links, questions, and peer advice. Great for those “cool” companies, tech startups, and male-targeted businesses.

Google+ it’s a lot more than a simple social network. Google’s integration service that ties together a bunch of Google products, including the search engine. Using Google+ correctly can help you get better rankings in Google Search. With Search Engine Optimization techniques being so important, don’t ignore Google+.

Youtube can increase online visibility, build trust, and convert customers. With faster connection speeds, unlimited hosting, and video cameras in every smartphone, it makes creating and sharing videos easy. Videos can also help you appear on the first page of search, and lots of people go straight to YouTube to search. YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world behind Google (which owns it).

It’s time to get social

Create a plan – but don’t go crazy trying to do it all right away – start small. Social media takes a lot of time and energy, so start with what you can manage – maybe one or two platforms to start. Incorporate social media into your routine – try to block some time on your calendar and dedicate a few hours to managing your social media accounts. A least once a week (at a minimum), it sounds like a lot, but it takes some dedication to make this stuff pay off. Figure out how to create a steady stream of content in your pipeline, then you’ll be ready to post and engage on social media. Comment on and/or link content on several different Facebook pages – if you’re on Twitter, tweet and retweet regularly. If your on LinkedIn, share a link and like other people’s links. Participate in conversations by asking questions and posting comments to updates by others. When you promote your blog posts, drive people to your website, people start seeing you as an expert or valuable contributor, the will follow and share your content – now you’re creating a buzz.

Paid Social Advertising

Maybe you want even more from your social media, it might be time to explore some paid advertising options. Facebook offers advertising solutions to boost sales, website traffic, brand exposure and audience engagement. Twitter has offerings to promote your content and promoted accounts. Promoted content serves your content to tailored audiences. Promoted accounts will increase the size of your Twitter followers. LinkedIn lets you buy advertising or use sponsored updates to increase your brand’s visibility. Even with a small budget, you might want to give thoughts to social advertising.

Start being more social...

Define your audience and choose the best platforms to reach them. Do some research, integrate social media icons and links, share content and keep track of how things are going. Apply some discipline to your social activities – success doesn’t come by accident, it’s about sound strategy and tactics.

Track your performance to identify which of your tactics are working and which aren’t. Most social media networks have tools you can use to track and measure your performance. Google Analytics is the most popular and easy-to-use option for monitoring traffic and interactions on your website or blog. Review reports regularly (every couple months). Step back and evaluate the big picture (not all the finer details) – make adjustments to stuff that’s not working, and try to recreate successes where things are working. It’s not going to happen without an effort, but you can do it.

lynda.com_400x400pxThere’s tons of resources around social media for your business, I would recommend as a great place to start. They have hours of video on social media that provides a framework for understanding, and teaches how to integrate social media into your marketing plan and measure success.

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