Most if not all small businesses did not experience starting up without difficulties. In addition to the sometimes painful initial effort as well as tight budget plan, there’s something called marketing. Nowadays, especially for small businesses, this is done through establishing your web presence (i.e., putting up a website) and adding social networks. Yes, people do hire individuals or companies to build a social network and oversee advertising and marketing and in some cases software can make aspects of this easier (e.g., Social Postify, Hootsuite, etc). That said, you first need a good grasp of what social media and social networks can do for your business.
Search the web for “social media for business” and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands of articles clamoring for you to make use of social media. But what can social media actually achieve for you in the areas of marketing, relations with customers and many other needs of your company? We’ll try to answer this succinctly. First and foremost, you’ll find that creating a good social network (and we use the term here to denote your OWN network of social media properties) is a foundation for good search engine rankings. You’re also making your company visible in many more places than just your website. Following a close second is the fact that you’ll be able to better serve (and keep in communication with) your customers. Social media is also a great area to advertise. Facebook has almost 2 BILLION users. Enough said.
What elements or properties make up a social network?
Only those living in a cave for the past 25 years would be unaware of in Internet or have not heard of social media. In essence social media is the use of the internet for communicating or interacting in some way with others. With the rise of smartphones, we now carry these technologies in our respective pockets. The best example is, of course, something like Facebook, in itself a vast network of pages allowing billions to communicate with one another on one single platform. Other examples are blogs or dedicated blogging sites like, well, Blogger. Twitter, as well known as Facebook is considered a microblogging site because of its built-in character limit for posts (i.e., “tweets”). YouTube, the most famous video sharing site also falls into our list of networks and is another one with a huge user base. Content (video and descriptions) can be shared throughout a worldwide audience.
With a wide reach—millions or billions of users—the ability to add or promote content in a plethora of ways, these examples of what makes up a social network are rightly a marketers dream. But for the small business it’s even better. They’re all FREE.
For each the advantage is that content creation and marketing can be done in one place. Each “property” of “platform” gives you, the small business owner the ability to log in in one place and communicate, advertise, email or connect with others on these same platforms. And as we said, there are applications that can help you administer multiple social properties from one central location.
Having your website associated with these big social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube has the added benefit of providing authority—authority which translates to power for your website in search engine listings. You’re not going to be on page one of Google after creating your Facebook account, but without these sites in essence linking back to your website, you’ll be at a disadvantage. In the simplest terms, your competitors are doing it so you’d better do it too!
So How Does This Help a Small Business?
Creating a network of social media sites for your business may be a bit convoluted and time consuming (especially if you’re doing it yourself), but as we said all of the social media sites we’ve mentioned are no-cost and have gargantuan user bases. And business, small or large, can make big gains by adding themselves to these communities. With a single effort you can accomplish a better online presence, give customers a way to communicate with you and build your online brand. It’s (relatively) quick and easy. A key component is staying active on the sites you join so do this. The point is not just to establish a presence but keep it active.
Compare this form of marketing or branding to that of years past. The internet puts such power in our own hands now that there is not the same need to hire an ad agency or marketing firm to get your business in front of people’s faces. Prior to all this, only companies with big bucks could afford such expenditures. With some exceptions, even a startup can potentially play in the same market as a Coca Cola or Starbucks. Consider what reaching a potential audience of millions would have cost in the old days.
Another upside is that interactions on these sites or networks are on a more personal level. There’s a humanness to it all that a TV or radio ad can’t achieve. It adds a legitimacy to your company and can contribute to customer loyalty like no other form of marketing because your customers know they can find you and communicate with you individually. They can get more information, discuss problems (a great place for you to resolve customer complaints) and SHARE you with others. Social media makes the small business its own public relations company!
Consistency is the key. Keeping active and responding in a timely manner but building a good network of social media sites is marketing gold. Keep it simple to start—try one or two—but maintain them. You’ll find it can pay dividends you never dreamed of.