The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only about half of all new businesses survive past their first five years. In many cases, the single greatest obstacle to success is not the quality of their product or service, but their ability to break through the clutter to reach target customers. This is particularly true in the crowded consumer products space where choices abound. While every entrepreneur believes their product is unique and offers something consumers can’t get elsewhere, socializing that story can be time consuming, labor intensive and costly.
Enter social media, which provides a cost-effective alternative to more traditional, expensive marketing campaigns. As Forbes states, “social media posts are like virtual flyers or the online equivalent of newspaper ads. They build name recognition and help your small business start to form a brand identity.” While a one-off viral post could lead to a significant boost in business, long-term success is achieved by implementing a social media strategy, committing to it, and adjusting course when necessary.
If you’re a small business owner interested in building a social media presence, here are three things to keep in mind as you’re getting started:
Decide who your target audiences are before launching an account. There are hundreds of social media platforms, and the audience you hope to reach should inform your selection of which platform to use. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest are among the most heavily trafficked sites, but the customers you hope to reach may be easier to connect with on a smaller, less used platform. Consider the types of content that will produce the largest impact for your business. If you are a florist, for example, compelling pictures of your arrangements posted on Instagram make sense. If you are a financial advisor, most of the wealthy clients you hope to reach are likely found on LinkedIn. Understanding which channels appeal to which targets is essential to success.
Set goals for engagement and track how effective your social media is in converting followers to customers. Be realistic about what it takes to establish an online presence, and recognize that you’ll likely have to adjust your tactics over time to find the most effective way to promote your business. More important than anything else, be consistent. Make your postings a destination for followers to find compelling content that is useful to them.
Social media is a two-way street, and it is not reasonable to expect followers to engage with your company if you don’t engage with them. Respond to comments and/or questions considerately and quickly. Followers are looking to you as their expert source, but also as a real persona. Don’t be afraid to show your personality and ask questions to foster higher rates of engagement. Connecting with your audience through dialogue and establishing a strong relationship goes a long way toward driving engagement and sales.
Establishing a social media presence for your business can be intimidating, especially with all of the other work that needs to be done to make a small business successful. It’s also a more complex activity than most people realize, exemplified by the massive teams most large corporations dedicate only to social media. But, by applying these simple principles, you’ll set a foundation that puts you in a position to grow your business and achieve long-term success.