For many small business owners, social media can be daunting. With so many platforms evolving and changing the way we connect with customers, it’s a challenge just to keep up with the latest tools, much less use them. At the New York Times Small Business Summit, Ramon Ray of Smallbiztechnology.com talked with Mashable contributor Lauren Drell, and Petflow.com founder Alex Zhardanovsky about the various advantages of social platforms in a panel entitled “Casting the Social Net.”
First, go where your customers are. “You have a limited amount of time and resources, and you need a separate strategy for each [social platform]. You can’t do them all. Test and find what works for you,” said Zhardanovsky, referring to his early usage of Facebook advertising. When their early campaigns didn’t work, he adjusted their tactics based on Facebook’s own instructions for using ads to build a community for your fan page, not for sales. Since then, he’s tested various campaigns and content on Facebook to drive sales. He’s learned that images work well for driving engagement, links to content outside Facebook are less likely to be served and thus seen, and targeting ads at competitor’s fans can help build prospects.
Second, consider not just the platforms, but how you engage within them. “Be human and authentic,” Drell said. Social media should not be for selling but, rather, for connecting and building relationships and for keeping you at the top of a customer's mind. “So when they’re ready, they’ll buy from you.” She also said that building an organic and engaged audience will ultimately save you time and money as word of mouth is developed for your brand.
They also discussed benefits of different tools, including how LinkedIn is great for finding contacts, networking and hiring, and how Pinterest works best to reflect the idea behind your brand, not your products.
Visit OPEN Forum’s New York Times Small Business Summit page for additional coverage from this and previous events, as well as highlights on Twitter via the hashtage #OPENNYT.
Photo credit: OPEN Forum