The fast-moving flow of information in social media can be intimidating to even the most computer-savvy among us. To a budding small business owner, it can be daunting. Yet if you want your business to succeed, you can’t afford to ignore that world. Fortunately, there is a way to conquer that world and make it work for you—and the way to do it is to be proactive. That means thinking out your social media marketing strategy before you launch your business and then taking the preliminary steps to make it all work. Here are a few things you can do ahead of time to see to it that your launch will go smoothly.
- Stake your claim in the social media frontier. Don’t be afraid. Hop right in! Getting connected may be new to you but it represents your golden opportunity to show your company’s value to the world. Create accounts on all the major social networking sites— Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn. Then to make things a little more manageable for yourself, consider signing up for a social media manager such as SproutSocial.com, HootSuite, or CoTweet.
- Be visual! A picture is worth a thousand words. So why use words when images are so much more effective? Take time to create an effective logo that communicates you, your business, and its value to your customers. Then follow up with photos, videos, infographics, and other forms of visual imagery that tell the tale of your company. If any of your products require instruction, create video tutorials to explain them. If your products are unique, use visuals to play up their distinctions! People are always looking for ways to be the coolest guys on their block, so make sure you show them how your products can help them become trend setters.
- Monitor your industry online. Do searches for mentions of your products or your industry on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. Become aware of your competition—not only what they are doing but also how they are using social media. There are numerous social media tracking applications available (for example, Trackur and monitter), many of which are free, that can help you keep track of chatter going on around the Web.
- Make yourself known. One of the most important things you can do in the social media world is forging relationships. Communication is not very effective if it only goes one way. So it’s of utmost importance to find a legion of fans and followers and begin an ongoing dialogue with them. You can start on Facebook with real friends and family. But then expand your reach. A quick keyword search can help you identify prospective customers who could be ideal fits for your product or service. Seek out key players in your industry and also target local media outlets and city officials. Then be diligent about establishing and maintaining communication with your new contacts. On Facebook, you can share their links on your wall and comment on them. On Twitter, you should always try to reply to as many messages as possible. If one of your contacts has a story, re-tweet it. On LinkedIn, join industry groups and start new group discussions or actively participate in ongoing ones. Most importantly, be careful to nurture these new relationships by avoiding asking for favors or help. Instead, offer your help to your contacts without asking for anything in return. This will build trust and elevate your relationships to the point where your online friends will ultimately be doing favors for you.
- Interlink One advantage to having multiple accounts on social media sites is to establish as many sources of user feedback as possible. People are seldom shy about sharing their opinions, and you can begin improving your products and services immediately as a result of their feedback. Another advantage is your ability to interlink within your own online network. One of the first things you will want to do after establishing your accounts is to link your company’s website, your Facebook page, your Twitter account, and your YouTube videos to each other. This is free advertising and is a neat way to showcase as many aspects of your business to as wide an audience as possible.
Today’s marketing climate is more diverse than ever, but there is no component that is as fast-growing or as effective as social networking. Your business can sell itself when you have the mechanisms in place to easily put it on display for the right audience to see. Those mechanisms are abundant in the social media world. So do your homework. Prepare to launch your business by preparing before the launch.
About the author:
Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of personalized pens, promotional pens, and other personalized items such as imprinted apparel and mugs and customized calendars.