Social Media for Small Business

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on April 2, 2010

Social media is fast becoming part of the savvy small business owner’s world. The most popular sites coming out of the revolution are social networking sites. At the most basic level, a social networking site allows you to identify your business contacts—from prospects and customers to partners and associates—and establish a personal link between you and each of them. Some ways that a small business can get involved with these sites include:

• Setting up a free Facebook account for yourself and creating a page for your business is a good way to enter the social networking space. You can announce new product features and events, post pictures, and communicate directly to your fans. These people have essentially "opted in" to receive messages from your company.

• Establishing a LinkedIn account (the basic level is free) for yourself is a great way to get started creating an online identity and exploring how social networking sites work. Blogger, tech evangelist, and former Apple employee Guy Kawasaki offers some great tips on how to create a useful LinkedIn profile for those getting started.

• To set up a free Twitter account, go to twitter.com, create a username and password, and begin finding people to follow. When you feel your little bird is ready to share its song, start sharing brief messages called tweets. For more help, blogger Chris Brogan has posted a Newbies Guide to Twitter.

With all the different technologies out there, it is important to remember that ultimately, content is king. If you are providing useful and interesting information, your small businesses can establish your brand, connect with customers, provide more information about products and services, build networks, and find like-minded colleagues, new clients, and even mentors.

Michelle Riggen-Ransom
Co-Founder and Communications Director
BatchBlue Software
Providence

Reader Comments

Rob Laughter

April 2, 2010 11:18 AM

The biggest challenge business owners face when it comes to getting involved with social media ISN'T the technology. It's the hordes of social media experts telling them just enough to get them confused. There are literally THOUSANDS of posts, just like this. Why write another one?

Kristin Gabriel

April 2, 2010 12:07 PM

Content is definitely key, but also one thing that people should know is linking back to their business websites from social media sites is just as important -- especially to assist their search engine optimization results to help their rankings move up to page one of Google and the other engines. For our clients, we are seeing great results on You Tube with short topical videos that address tips, and where key words are used properly.
Kristin Gabriel
Founder, MarCom New Media
Los Angeles, CA

Prof P.Madhu Sudana Rao & Mulgeta Damie ,Haramaya University,Ethiopia

April 2, 2010 2:15 PM

The businessman now days has to concentrate on social network in order to market his product, getting feedback from the public and to incorporate changes in the product as per their needs. In fact it is his crucial function .
In the olden days, it was believed that if the product is of quality and priced reasonably, nothing would prevent the producers from achieving satisfactory sales and profit. It was based on the premise that consumers were capable of selecting products from among the competing brands.
At a later stage, many firms realized that consumers will not buy enough unless approached with substantial selling and promotional efforts. Customer’s importance was further realized but only as a means of disposing of the goods produced. Thus, it was realized that measuring consumer needs, or behavior, was not enough. “Consumer satisfaction” should be the care and correct perspective on which marketing policies of an organization should be built.
The present generation of producers should be intelligent in regard to the application of procedures. They first should find out what the consumers want. Then produce the goods according to the needs of the consumers. To achieve maximum efficiency in marketing there must be a flow of information vis-à-vis the flow of goods. This information has to be collected even before a product is planned. Subsequent information would also enable the manufacturer to assess periodical changes that are required. That is why it is very often remarked that ‘marketing starts and ends with the consumer,’ with information flowing from the consumer to the producer and goods flowing back to the consumer from the producer. This can be achieved mostly through social networking.
A market transaction takes place when there is a successful matching of a buyer and a seller. Thus, marketing, through its studies and research, will determine what the customer wants in a given product, what price he is willing to pay, and where and when it will be wanted. It was realized that goods must reach customers at a maximum speed but with minimum cost. This is mainly due to the rapidly increasing tempo of production of a wide range of goods and services. It is only through social network that the demand for goods and services is stimulated.

Matt Rhodes

April 3, 2010 9:44 AM

These are great tips and any business should consider the benefits it can get from using social media, especially free tools that can be easy to set up!

Before you do, though, it's really important to spend some time thinking what you want to achieve. Working out your brand’s aims and objectives is the single most important factor in a successful social media strategy. Do this before you think about technology or you risk falling into the trap of setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account before you actually know what you want to do with it.

Once you know this there are lots of great ways Small Businesses can use social media including the ones outlined above. I wrote about a few more (six in total) with some case studies if anybody is interested:

http://www.freshnetworks.com/blog/category/series/social-media-for-small-businesses/

Matt Rhodes
FreshNetworks

Janice Taylor-Gaines

April 3, 2010 11:01 AM

Wow – this reminds me of something I saw in another article - it talked about "friending" on social networking one minute, and then "businessing" in the corporate environment the next, and mixing the two. Check out the article at IT Knowledge Exchange, called "Social Networking and the Blended Environment" by David Scott - it's a great companion piece. For that matter, check out his book, "I.T. WARS" (which you can Google). He makes the point that most organizations enjoy "security" largely as a matter of luck! These topics are fascinating! Keep these coming - security is my main interest. For some free insight, check out his blog, “The Business-Technology Weave” – you can Google to it, or search on the site IT Knowledge Exchange which hosts it. Great stuff.

Alex Kaminski

April 3, 2010 6:40 PM

It is the big brands that seem to generating the most ROI from social media; but small businesses are catching up. Facebook and Twitter should be used to provide useful content like you suggested but mainly to drive sales and provide customers for these small businesses.

Promotions, sweepstakes, coupons, and engaging influencers should be the first steps in a small business's social media campaign. There are a lot of tools out there that help businesses manage social media that should be used (e.g. SocialBlaze, TweetDeck).

Michael Lerner

April 3, 2010 7:20 PM

There's no doubt that social media can be an effective tool for many different kinds of businesses. We recently published an article that outlines some strategies: http://www.learnthenet.com/learn-about/social-networking-for-business/index.php

Mari Luangrath

April 4, 2010 10:36 AM

Thanks for your post. I really think you hit the nail on the head with your last paragraph:
"...your small businesses can establish your brand, connect with customers, provide more information about products and services, build networks, and find like-minded colleagues, new clients, and even mentors."

Some of the most valuable relationships I've gained through our adventure using SM (which includes starting an entire cupcake delivery business from scratch using only Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and our blog and surpassing original revenue targets by over 600 percent) are the like-minded colleagues, networks, and mentors who have reached out to support and rally around our business.

People in a community, whether it's virtual, literal, or both, engage for a reason. And I know that for the Chicago social media community, it's a combination of interaction, fun, and supporting one another.

Isn't it fun!

Dani Cohen

April 4, 2010 5:52 PM

I think my favorite SM site is actually a new one called WooEB. It does everything the ones you listed do, just all in one place, plus is has a blog.

Jason Cobine

April 6, 2010 5:48 PM

I use LinkedIn and am careful to test and measure the results to avoid wasting time. It's difficult to "master" all of the social networks and a post I read today suggested "mastering" one and then repeating what had worked. Naturally, the different sites have nuances that makes this tricky. Nevertheless, it's a (nearly) new World of opportunity.

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