I previously wrote about five important questions you need to ask before you jump into social media with both feet. Since then, I’ve been thinking about where I would suggest a small business start its social media efforts. Of course, every business is different and you might have different objectives than I do with Lendio social media strategy, but this is the approach I take and it works for us.
The Lendio blog is our social media foundation: If there is a “secret sauce” to social media success, I think it can be found in a blog. Regardless of the industry you’re in, your customers crave information about your industry and best practices — and fortunately, you have that information. The blog is a great place to share and build credibility within your industry. Although frequency is up to you and the amount of time you’re willing to commit, remember, you have about 50 posts before Google starts to pay any attention to you. So, the more content you can create, the better for searchers. I normally suggest at least weekly, but predictable and regular is really the mantra here. You want your customers and prospective customers to anticipate what you might write next — and watch for it.
My personal preference for a blog platform is Wordpress, but there are other very capable platforms. Other bloggers I know really like Blogger, which is a Google property. Most blog software (including both of the above) offer custom templates that can help you create a look that will feel unique to you.
Use Twitter to promote content and interact: Because it takes so much time before Google starts sending search traffic your way, you might want to consider using Twitter to promote your content (particularly in the beginning). Of course, there are many on Twitter who look at how much you interact as the measure of whether or not you are a good Twitter citizen, so you’ll want to devote some time every day to commenting and sharing the stuff other people post. I’ve found Twitter to be a fountain of great information and have created some great relationships over the years. I still interact with some of my professional Twitter contacts on a regular basis.
I also use TweetDeck to interact on Twitter because it allows me to follow multiple streams and individuals on one screen. There are other platforms. I’ve tried a few of them, but I always seem to come back to TweetDeck.
I like Facebook because the potential network is pretty darn big: I pushed back on implementing a strategy on Facebook for a long time because I felt it was such a “personal” network and didn’t think it was very practical for a small business. I had to eat some crow and change my mind on that one a couple of years ago. Nevertheless, depending on your products, it can either be a great place to interact or a fantastic place to interact. The idea on Facebook is to try to engage your customers or prospective customers (which is much easier said than done). B-to-C companies like Backcountry.com (a Utah company that I think does a very good job with Facebook) have very engaged followers (or Likes). It’s a little more challenging for B-to-B companies — however it does happen, but within smaller groups. Sharing content, commenting about relevant topics on related streams, and even contests are great ways to build a following of people who like your company.
You can’t ignore Google+ — it’s Google: My Google+ network feels very different than my Facebook network. Most of my network is with colleagues and other business-related associates that are interested in the same type of content we promote. To be honest, the jury is still out for me, but I’m convinced that making the Google investment is a good idea.
Pinterest and Instagram: If you have a visual product and your audience includes a lot of women, Pinterest and Instagram could become a critical part of your marketing mix. Although there are some “guys” on these networks, there aren’t as many of them as there are gals. That being said, I wouldn’t ignore these media if your primary customer is a guy. There is so much potential for the media. I believe this because the content most interacted with online is an image, followed by a video, and then the written word. Whether or not you choose to join the Pinterest or Instagram world, you’ll want to make sure your content includes images whenever possible.
YouTube and Vimeo: Who would have ever though that online video would carry the weight it does on websites or social media like YouTube and Vimeo? I recently spoke with Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe, the Coke and Mentos guys, about how small businesses can create and leverage viral video to promote their companies and their brand. You’d be surprised at how simple it can be. What’s more, creating a slick, Hollywood-style video, isn’t typically what goes viral. With a very simple digital video camera and a compelling story, you can create a compelling video. Don’t rule out video just because you’re not a video “expert.”
There is other social media available that could be worth a try. For example, if I owned a restaurant I’d definitely be on Foursquare. I mention the above because for most small business owners, it’s a good place to start. The key is to identify the type of social media your customers or potential customers are likely to participate in and make sure you are there.
I’d be very interested in hearing about some of your successes with social media. Where do you spend most of your time? Do you feel like it’s successful? Do you have any ideas you’d like to share? If so, feel free to reach out to me via Twitter at @tykiisel.
As a main street business evangelist and marketing veteran with more than 25 years in the trenches, Ty Kiisel writes about leading people and small-business issues for lendio.com.