Social media marketing is one of the hottest topics in adverting for this decade. Capitalizing on the trend correctly is a challenge for even the largest corporations, but if you're a small business, social media is a particularly good marketing channel because it is very personal and quite inexpensive.
Social media, itself, refers to a wide range of participatory web communities. While the initial model for the internet was one where individuals or institutions each maintained their own page, these days the average web user is familiar with a range of social media, from Twitter to Facebook, and may even spend the majority of their online time interacting with people through these communities. Often this has become and integrated part of the average person's offline world. They will use social media to keep up with the regular happenings in the lives of friends and family. As a business, this means that getting noticed means making your company part of an ongoing conversation in that online community.
Brands with an existing popular reputation often have much of the work done for them, as social media users boost their favorite things of their own accord. Conversely, the willingness for dissatisfied customers to publicize their complaints makes unmonitored social media a PR nightmare. As a result, increasingly, companies of all sizes maintain membership in major social media communities. They keep fan pages, answer back to comments on social media, or try to create engaging content for people to talk about.
As a small business, you probably don't have the budget to hire someone to devote to social media marketing full time. But chances are, one of the strengths of your small size is your essential role in your customers lives. Whether you bring a fresh perspective as a consultant to tech clients, or you're a neighborhood cafe, chances are, your customer base is fiercely loyal - or they will be with a little social media magic.
To get started, decide what social media platforms are most used by your customers. It's better to have a few active accounts then lots of dead ones. You will need to find out the personality of your company, which is what makes it unique. If it's a one person shop, it could even be your story. Avoid the pitfall of trying to create banal competitions for attention on social media. They can be an effective strategy, but much more effective is to create content people willingly want to share. For example as a consulting company post insider tips to your industry. If you have a store front, take pictures of new merchandise, but also the view outside your shop front window as the seasons change.
Lastly, don't be afraid to have opinions and be human. It can be tempting to create a bland, agreeable personality for the web. People will be much more interested in your small business if you make yourself interesting. And, once you've harnessed the power of social media marketing, you'll soon see results!