You’ve heard all the hoopla about Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You know that your company should have a presence within the social web in one way or another. You want to start, but you also don’t have the faintest idea how to get rolling. What social networking tools or platforms should a small business begin with?
The available data, information and research on that question always seem fairly consistent. According to just about every poll and survey I’ve seen, and the information that one can glean from interviews and stories about small and medium sized business enterprises that successfully utilize social media marketing, there are a few essential tools. Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Facebook clearly emerge as the top four social web platforms used by marketers, with Twitter now leading the pack. Other social media tools such as bookmarking are certainly useful and have their place, but they seem to pale in comparison to those “big four.”
If you have not yet started bringing social media into your business marketing mix and you’re going to do it on your own, I would recommend starting with just one of those four. For instance, establish a Twitter account and start tweeting. But don’t do it blindly, without any focus or purpose. Figure out what value you can offer to your “followers” and implement a Twitter game plan. Will you update followers with information they can use or will find genuinely interesting? Provide special reports to them? Give them advance notice of a special sale or a promotion? You get the idea. Social marketing for small business is about relevance, especially if you’re targeting a local geography instead of the entire world.
As you get comfortable with one social platform, add another… then another, until you have presence in all of the big four – a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook Business Page, a Twitter account and a blog. Link them all together and wrap them around your website along with any offline marketing you do. Voila! You have an integrated social media marketing strategy. Wasn’t that easy? Now you can have a look at casting an even wider net with additional micro blogging sites, social bookmarking sites, article submission, and other social networks in general. Just be sure that you have the available time and human resources to manage your participation.
Keep in mind that social media marketing is rarely about instant results. It’s different in fundamental ways from traditional media, especially direct marketing methods. It is a subtle process that must be patiently seeded and cultivated in order to reap the full benefit. That’s not to say that you cannot measure results. It is to say that the results you are measuring will often be in terms of relational metrics such as followers/fans, blog comments, site traffic, etc. That’s the thing to get your head around.
The impact of social media will only grow and its importance to business is here to stay in one form or another. That’s because it is based upon something that’s as old as the hills… reputation and word of mouth marketing. With online tools, it’s just a lot faster now. So get started and most importantly, have fun with it! That’s the wonderful thing about social networking. You have an opportunity to truly engage your customers and your prospects in a way that they enjoy.