Incorporating social media into your small business marketing plan makes perfect sense. The nature of social media combined with small business marketing presents endless possibilities for building your online presence, establishing your brand, and growing your customer base. Unfortunately, there are no one-size-fits-all social media marketing strategies. However following established social media best practices is a smart plan, and this list of social media marketing tips and tools will you get started.
1. Mine a Few (Good) Twitter Followers
Being new to social media, and thus having only a few followers, can be daunting. After you create your social media profiles, you need to grow your social following. Mining users is an effective social media marketing strategy, and a good way to build a following on Twitter.
To do this, simply search Twitter for experts in your industry—like bloggers and other businesses—then, search the people those accounts follow. Start adding those folks to the list of people you follow. This will help you gain followers and shares from people relevant to your business.
2. Ask Customers to Join You in Social
Another social media best practice to help boost your audience is to ask existing customers, partners, and business associates to join you in social. Use social icons (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc) on your website and in paper and email correspondence to promote your profiles. If you use email marketing as a business tool, be sure to let your subscribers know how to find you on social media as well. Over time customers will join you in social, and your marketing reach will grow.
You can use a tool like TweetReach to monitor how far your social messages go. This web-based tool tracks social engagement. After creating an account you can easily see spikes in impressions, view the potential reach of any Twitter message, and also find the big influencers around any conversation.
3. Find Relevant, Influential People
In social circles, the big influencers have a vast reach. With large groups of followers, influencers can potentially spread your message to a much larger audience. The secret is to find the influencers within your industry and give them something to talk about (or to retweet).
Twellow is a handy search engine tool that will help you find people, listed by their area of expertise. Use this social tool to find the influential Twitter pros most relevant to your business, products, and services.
4. Use a Tool to Manage Profiles
Social media management tools lets you use one application to post, share, and manage your presence across multiple social media sites. These tools work especially well for a small business owner trying to keep up with multiple profiles. In addition to managing profiles, social tools also offer important tracking and time-saving features like social analytics, message scheduling, or integration with other marketing and business tools. Any of the following five social media tools can help you to better manage your social media marketing strategy.
5. But Refrain from Total Automation
Remember that Twitter and Facebook are networks of people, not robots—so don't rely on total automation all the time. Let loose every so often and post something new and fun without the use of social sync tools and auto-follow apps. Fans and followers will enjoy seeing a real person behind your business and brand. Adding personal posts and replying to comments left by other people will also reduce the automated feel.
6. Post Unique and Interesting Content
When it comes to social media, it's important to be unique and interesting. While you may repurpose blurbs from existing website or blog content from time to time, be sure to include new and unique content in your social messages as well.
It's easy to find related topics and to repost or retweet other people, but your targeted social audience has probably seen the content, especially if you followed the first tip we mentioned and mined a group of initial followers. Create unique social content to help you stand out in the crowd.
7. Social Media is Visual Media
People scroll through social feeds quickly, but you can attract attention by using creative and colorful images in your social media marketing messages. You can add visual appeal to your social media presence in a variety of ways: create and share interesting images, engage with fans and ask them to create images and share with you, or post photos of any events or promotions your business participates in.
Before you start posting images on social media, you need to know the optimal image viewing size on each social network. If you want to post perfect images, refer to Sprout Social's Always Up-to-Date Guide to Social Media Image Sizes.
8. Don't Be Shy—Ask for a Tweet (or a Like)
When you create great social messages, don't be shy; ask your Twitter followers and Facebook fans to share the content. Some readers will, and you'll gain new Likes and followers as a result. According to Hub Spot research (PDF), "please retweet" is the 11th most popular term found in tweets. As a thank you, be sure to follow or favorite all the people who mention your or share your social messages. If your followers have good content, be sure to mention it on your profile as well.
You can also improve content shares by posting news or entertainment-related content. Hub Spot's research also shows that nearly 80 percent of retweeted content is about news and almost 50 percent of retweeted content is entertainment posts. Many people use Twitter feeds to find out what's happening in the world, so try and work in news posts that relate to your business.
9. Look Beyond the Most Obvious Places
Don't limit your business profiles to only the most popular social media sites—like Facebook and Twitter. With the exception of your time, small business social media marketing is free so take advantage of the many social networking sites out there.
As you discover which social sites work best for your business, use your preferred social management tool to keep an active presence across multiple social sites. And keep a dedicated and personalized focus on the ones that benefit you most. Check Wikipedia's list of social networking websites to find more social media sites you can try.
Vangie Beal is a seasoned online marketplace seller and avid online bargain hunter. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com.
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