Social Media for Small and Home Businesses

Social Media for Small and Home Businesses
You have heard of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Digg, and many more social media websites. You can blog, podcast, join forums, create wikis, review products and much more online. Social media sites and technologies are already numerous and growing daily. How can you use these Web 2.0 tools to make your business more profitable?

Social media and social marketing really are almost everywhere these days, and it can be daunting when you do not “get” what everyone is raving about. But, social media, in almost all cases, is very easy to use, and if you learn and apply some basic concepts, it can be a very productive and fruitful use of your time. With social media, you can build your own community of customers, friends and supporters of your business, as well as to stay on top of your field by networking with professionals in your industry.

“Social” is the defining word in “social media”. All social media sites are quite simply just another medium or venue for exchanging information and ideas, but most users find that they get better results by taking advantage of the social aspects of these sites. What that means is that it is about interacting and connecting with others. That can happen in numerous ways—comments, replies, ratings, etc. While there are unique features to many social media sites, they are all typically based on that interaction and sharing of information.

What that means to you as a small or home business owner is that you can communicate with a much bigger audience (customer base) than ever before. For free.

You can use all sorts of social media sites to market your business online. Here are some of my guidelines for getting the most value from social marketing:

1—Start with one or two sites. Some of the ones I named above will work, or ask your friends, customers and business advisors what they use and recommend. Try to join sites that you can immediately use. If you already have video for your business, post it on YouTube—it takes just a couple of minutes to upload and then you can share your video link on your website or via email or other social media sites. You probably already have friends on Facebook. Go take a look and see. Twitter is very easy to use, and you can build a following there pretty quickly.

2—It’s easier to “friend” people online than it is offline. So, don’t be shy about searching a particular social media site for areas you are interested in and “friending” (different sites use different terms for this—on Twitter, for instance, it’s “following”) the people who show up in the search. This is how you build up your online networks. Most people do accept friend requests (unless you are a spammer or doing something else that’s not acceptable) and in many cases, they will interact with you.

3—Do not SPAM your friends and followers. Again, this is about being “social’ or interacting and connecting with others. You do this by paying attention to what they are saying and joining in the conversation. To illustrate, suppose you were invited to a networking cocktail party. Would you burst into the room and start shouting your marketing message to everyone? Nope. So don’t do it online either. See what your group is talking about, ask questions or offer ideas—contribute to the conversation. If you do this, people will pay attention when you do say “by the way, I have great organic widgets that would help you solve your problem.”

4—Decide what you want to accomplish before you do any social marketing. Social marketing is still marketing and just as you wouldn’t put phone book ads under every subject listing they offer, you shouldn’t just go posting links on every social site out there. It’s not inherently wrong (although sometimes people do get mad about it); it’s just not going to get you a very good response, if it gets a response at all. For almost every small or home business owner, time is far too valuable to waste on ineffective marketing. Being strategic in how you use your resources (including your time) is just as important online as it is offline. Maybe more so. So, make a plan and work that plan.

5—It’s not a “field of dreams”. One week on any social media site is not going to bring you thousands of customers. You can increase your odds of success, just like anywhere else, by being prepared and doing a good job. Social media provides some wonderful opportunities, but be wary of “get rich” schemes and self-appointed “experts”. Do join in the conversation and stay awhile and I believe you’ll find it is provides a great way for you learn, grow and communicate your passion. And, inherently, that will help you grow your business.

For more information, I recommend:

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