To the untrained eye, small business owners are at a disadvantage. They don’t have the seemingly unlimited budgets of large corporations or large teams to maintain an ongoing marketing plan. Even with limited resources, small business owners can still utilize a few basic skills to increase their reach, perhaps the most powerful being the effective use of social media.
Where to Start Your Social Media Campaign
First of all, any small business looking to start a social media campaign would do well to start with the “Top 3”: Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
Why these three?
1) they’re all free, 2) each one is easy to setup and 3) they can drastically increase your web presence when used effectively. If you already have a Gmail account, setting up a Google+ page is as simple as clicking the “+You” icon after signing in. All three of these are discussed in detail below.
Boasting over 255 million monthly active users as of March 2014, Twitter is a social network that small business owners cannot afford to ignore. Even though some users feel over-restricted with its 140-character limit, Twitter has the ability to reach a vast audience if harnessed properly.
When you first sign up with Twitter, you’ll be asked to follow 20 different accounts. This is the perfect opportunity to connect with people within your industry. Take the time to find various accounts that deal in your niche.
Once complete, make sure to add an attractive profile picture and background image. In the beginning, everyone starts out as an “egg” with a solid color background, which does little to impart on visitors your relevancy, vision or trustworthiness. Include high-quality images for both that attractively highlight your business and vision.
Finally, write a “to-the-point” description of your business. You are bound by yet another character limit, so be precise here. After adding images and descriptions, begin interacting with the accounts that you followed by “retweeting” (sharing on your timeline) and commenting on relevant tweets. Be sure to use hashtags when tweeting, which will help steer other users with similar interests towards your feed.
Facebook is another highly active social media platform, with over 1.39 billion users as of December 2014. Similar to Twitter, users with similar interests can locate each other through hashtags, but unlike Twitter, Facebook has a much more generous character limit for posts.
After entering in your information in the “Sign Up” field, you’ll need to confirm your email and phone number. Once the Personal profile is completed, create a Facebook Page for your business. After selecting the category that best fits your business, click “Get Started” and follow the on-screen prompts.
Once the Page is completed, be sure to add attractive, high-quality images to your background and profile pictures (preferably ones that match your Twitter profile), and include a detailed description of your business. Once complete, you can start posting. Keep in mind that Facebook has recently allowed the use of hashtags, so bear that in mind while posting.
If you already have a Gmail account, you’re halfway done with setting up your Google+ profile. With 540 million active users as of October 2013, Google+ has seen tremendous growth with its wildly popular Hangouts app and photo sharing service. If harnessed correctly, it can help small businesses rank higher in search engine results pages, or SERPs.
The key to a successful Google+ presence is to include: 1) a detailed, easy-to-read description in the “Introduction” field, 2) a specific, keyword-rich description of your business in the “Tagline” section, and 3) relevant backlinks to your other social media profiles under the “Links” section. The description should include keywords that are relevant to your business, such as “yarn” if you have a crochet shop or “organic foods” if you’re an organic grocer. And just like with Twitter and Facebook, be sure to add high-quality images to your background and profile.
Contact information for your business should also be completed and appears towards the bottom of your Profile page.
Plus, it never hurts to fill out the “Bragging Rights” section to highlight certain accomplishments, such as membership in the local Chamber of Commerce, recognition by the BBB, etc.
Once completed, you can click the “Discover Communities” button located under the header to find other users within or interested in your niche. Hashtags are also useful in this regard, as well. Go here for more tips on creating a strong Google+ presence, and consider Google My Business to make your business more easily discoverable across Google Maps, Google Search and Google+.
Start a Blog
Of course, your business should have its own website and if it doesn’t, start one today. Free options for starting a blog site include WordPress and Blogger, the latter of which is already included in your suite of options when signed into Google+. This blog should also include the same images used in your social media profiles for solidarity.
The blog will serve as a platform for you to share stories about your business. The key to attracting visitors is to create awesome content and blast it out across your social media channels, utilizing the pertinent hashtags. Be sure to post on a consistent basis to help keep the business fresh in your user’s mind, as followers will drop off if you do.
Posting regularly and announcing it via social media consistently can seem overwhelming to new users, but there are some free tools available that can help you automate much of it. Popular tools include Buffer and Hootsuite, both of which allow you to connect your social media profiles, schedule posts and even monitor click-through rates for your posts. To increase click-through (aka site visits), be sure that you’re posting during peak hours and realize that not all social media profiles are created equally in that regard.
Now We Play the Waiting Game
Don’t become discouraged when you don’t receive a high volume of traffic right off the bat. It takes time to become a trusted resource and entrench yourself firmly among other established competitors who may have already set-up their social media campaigns.
With content creation trending upward, and 78% of chief marketing officers believing that custom content is the future of marketing, small business owners cannot afford to miss the boat on this one, especially with so many free options available to them.
Social media image courtesy of Sean MacEntee on Flickr
About the Author
Robert Conrad is a social media guru who has assisted various site owners with increasing their traffic and creating excellent content. When he’s not helping enrich the online lives of others, he can usually be found going on random road trips with his family or playing copious amounts of video games. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.