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Social Media for business is more than just sending out automated tweets a couple of times a day, linking to your latest blog post on Facebook, or slapping a pretty picture on Pinterest every once in a while. A well-coordinated social media strategy builds brand recognition and loyalty, generates sales leads, and creates a positive connection with the community through consistent and frequent engagement on social media sites.
Benefits of Social Media for Small Businesses
Consistent engagement with the different social media communities offers:
an abundance of new ideas;
a source of prospective customers and sales leads;
opportunities to build brand awareness and nurture brand loyalty;
an avenue for business owners to respond to news and events that affect their business, industry or community.
Getting Started: How to Build a Fan Base on Social Media
Before any of the above benefits can be realized, you have to build a a loyal fan base. You’d agree when that as brilliant as your message might be, it is of no use if there is nobody to read it.
Building a fan base can be a slow process, however, there are a few ways to speed it up.
Social Sharing Buttons
One of the easiest ways to help grow your social media audience is to include social media buttons on your website. Inviting your site visitors to follow you on Social Media and to share your content could really give that engagement boost you are after.
Contests & Giveaways
Holding a contest or a giveaway is one of the most effective ways to build a following on Social Media. This is also a great way to build buzz about your brand. As people share the contest with friends by email or through their own social media accounts, you will gather more followers on your own accounts.
Several programs exist that can help you build a following on Twitter. Few, if any of these programs, come highly recommended since they sometimes run afoul of Twitter’s anti-spam policy.
Another reason to avoid using programs that promise to build a social media following for you overnight, is that the followers may not actually care to engage with your company. The newly acquired followers may simply have the custom to follow back whomever followed them.
It may look nice to have a large following on Twitter, but if these numbers won’t help you accomplish your social media strategy, it is best to go without them in first place.
Which Social Media Platforms Are Best?
Most businesses don’t need to invest time and efforts in building up their brand image on every social media site out there. At the same time many businesses do well on Facebook, while others are more successful on Twitter or Pinterest. Find out which sites your target customers are using and build a following on those sites.
Anatomy of an Effective Social Media Strategy
Maintain Complete & Consistent Account Profiles
Once you’ve decided which social media sites your marketing strategy will focus on, make sure you complete to the last detail your account details. Use your logo and branded images to represent your brand.
Follow Social Media Etiquette
Interact & Engage
After working hard to build a large following, one of the worst things you can do is to ignore the people who want to interact with you on social media. Respond to private messages sent to your business accounts and reply to tweets or Facebook comments that are related to your company in a timely manner.
Thank people for the positive comments left about your company and keep your replies positive if someone shows irritation or seems inclined to argue. You might not be able to solve customer service disputes in a limited character posts, but a simple, positive reply can show that you are actively listening and acre about your audience.
Promote Your Social Media Accounts On and Offline
As mentioned above, social sharing buttons should be integrated in your website design, however, you should also include links to your social media accounts in emails and newsletters. When possible, include links on letterhead and business cards. Don’t forget to always invite your audience to follow, like and share your content on social media.
Share Relevant, Useful Information
Social Media is a great way to promote your business, but followers will soon tune out if that is all you do. Post information that is relevant to your followers and the communities in which they live. Take the opportunity to soften your image by making public service announcements or sharing your company’s philanthropic activities.