Many small-business owners have embraced social media platforms as one of their main forms of networking, quickly replacing their traditional offline networking models. Studies show small businesses are dedicating time and resources to social platforms—nearly seven in 10 will spend more than half their networking time on these sites in the year ahead. Still, a majority of small businesses are still in the experimental phase. These businesses need to better understand how to use these tools to drive business and connect with new customers to remain competitive.
Here are three tips for finally mastering social media.
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1. Go where your customers are. That means expanding your presence across platforms. Start by ensuring the right information is listed about your company. Services such as Google Places and Yelp may list information about your business, whether you’ve created a profile or not—it’s up to you, as the small-business owner, to ensure your company’s logo, messages and links are up-to-date and reflective of your brand. Claim all the profiles that mention your business, and be consistent across networks.
2. Engagement is key. Social media platforms deliver on the promise of true one-to-one marketing, but only if you use it that way. Listen to your community—customers disclose a lot of information about themselves and their needs on social media sites, so small businesses have the opportunity to collect valuable insights that can improve services, maximize marketing strategies and ultimately help you sell more. Interaction is crucial for continuing engagement with your customers. Take the time to reply to questions, jump in on conversations and solicit feedback on sites where your customers are.
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3. Choose carefully and follow through. Remember that to realize the ROI of social media, you must pick the right platform (or two) that's most effective for your company, and put in the time. Consistency is critical—it is not a weekly or even daily project. It’s an ongoing, realtime conversation.
Pamela Springer is the CEO of Manta, an online community for small businesses.
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