Social media has taken us by storm, revolutionizing marketing for businesses of all shapes and sizes, including the small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in everyone’s community.
It’s a brave new world out there, and the question is whether you are liking, tweeting, commenting, sharing, posting and following it online. This has become part of our new routine and everyday life: Over 70% of the U.S. population has at least one social networking profile, and more than half use two or more social networks.
According to Social Media Examiner’s seventh annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 92% of marketers working with small businesses (between two and 10 employees) agree or strongly agree that social media is crucial to their marketing efforts.
Rhett Rowe, president of Capital for Merchants, a small-business lender, says small businesses fail when they try to beat big companies at their own game. “Small companies don’t have that kind of money, time, or stamina,” he says. “Instead, they should focus on expanding brand awareness, increasing website traffic, and building a community of loyal followers.”
Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and/or Pinterest or other networks, consider the following mistakes that SMBs can make and how to successfully navigate the sometimes-choppy waters as you grow your social media presence and customer engagement.
Mistake #1: Having one-way conversations
Many social media novices see networks as just another way to broadcast their sales promotions, products and services. Instead of prompting two-way conversations that social media audiences are accustomed to, they replicate what would be a headline in an ad and speak at the customer. Customers engage with businesses that have a conversation with—not at—them.
Solution: Go to the cocktail party
Social media gives you the opportunity to connect in real-time with current and potential customers. If someone walked into your business, you likely wouldn’t talk to him or her about current sales. You would try to understand the individual’s specific needs so you could provide the best product and service for him or her. Treat social networks as a cocktail party: Connect with people in an easy-going manner, talk informally and tailor the conversation to the audience.
Mistake #2: Posting inconsistently
Novices post and monitor social networks when it comes across their minds—which could be daily, weekly or once a month. And while the content can still be interesting and appealing, it may lose the customer because of the lulls. It also may lack flow and fluency.
Solution: Create a posting plan
Without a schedule, social media marketing is a mess! Create a posting plan to keep social accounts active, remind you to monitor social accounts, determine themes or topics for your posts, set a schedule for days and times to post and continue open conversations with consumers.
Mistake #3: Lacking a strategy
Novices typically create social media profiles without identifying what they want to accomplish using them. What do they want customers to know about their brand? How do they want customers to feel after viewing a post? And what do they want customers to do in response?
Solution: Create an actionable strategy
After creating your accounts, develop a simple and brief social media strategy that consists of a mission, goals and tactics to fulfill your strategy. In as little as 15 minutes, it’s possible to establish an actionable social media strategy.
Mistake #4: Responding to negative reviews or posts in a snarky tone
While customer service may be an SMB’s number-one priority, unfavorable reviews, comments and/or posts will inevitably come along. If and when this happens online, social media novices choose to ignore them or respond with the same negativity and emotion as the original poster.
Solution: Create a review response guide
When someone attacks your company and casts a public shadow on your reputation, you may feel the need to defend your business. However, a negative response doesn’t help attract the right kind of people to your brand. There is no winner if you choose to argue with the reviewer. Knowing how to handle negative reviews before they occur is key. The following review response formula includes actions to take to create a positive outcome from a negative review:
- Acknowledge the review and the feelings of the customer. Don’t be dismissive of his or her experience, but rather apologize for it.
- Ask to discuss things further away from the public eye (in email or over the phone).
- Resolve the case, which may entail apologizing or in extreme situations offering a reimbursement/compensation in some way.
Mistake #5: Ignoring hashtag trends
All social media networks (except LinkedIn) use hashtags and keywords to compile thoughts on the same subject. Think about them as the equivalent of a keyword search. Hashtags trends are often linked to new and high-profile events. In their use of social networks, novices don’t use any hashtags or use them excessively.
Solution: Do some (quick) hashtag research
To get started, become familiar with how to use hashtags and which hashtags are appropriate to your message: By not using hashtags, your SMB isn’t connecting with others. Use too many hashtags and your posts are labeled as spam and are difficult to read. You may want to jump onto a trending hashtag to gain more exposure; however, you could be directing the wrong type of attention to your company without a quick search to see what that topic is actually about.
To learn more about how to maximize social media for your local business, view this free eBook that explores:
- Which social media networks you should use to get started
- How each major social network benefits your business
- 9 proven tips for succeeding with social media
Todd Renard is the head of Digital and Product Development for The Berry Company and the LocalVox Platform. He is responsible for the development, innovation and go-to-market strategy, tactics and logistics for Berry/LocalVox’s digital products and services. A leading industry player, Renard has spoken at to a number of marketing professional groups, including BIA/Kelsey, on operationalizing and promoting a suite of online advertising solutions for the SMB market. Renard holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Resources Management and Services from California State University-Chico.