Social Media for Small Business: How and Why

social media
Introduction by Leora: I was reading Scott’s guest post How to Monitor What Others Are Saying About Your Brand, and after making a comment about trying to convince a local business owner to use social media, I got my own guest post from Scott on this topic. Hope you find it useful!

As a small business owner who is surrounded by big-name brands and businesses, you probably feel like the odds are stacked against you at times, especially in a tough economy.

In order to hold your own and be able to compete with the best of them, it’s absolutely essential that you develop an online social media presence. According to the results of a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 72% of the adults who are online use social media sites. Furthermore, additional research has proven that in the United States, 8 out of 10 users of social media prefer to interact with businesses through social media as opposed to company websites. If you still need convincing that your small business should be using social media, perhaps knowing that campaigns on Facebook and Twitter have proven their effectiveness in the generation of quality leads. Regardless of what market you’re in, whether it’s computers, cars, clothing, etc., they will sell you on the idea.

With this in mind, here are some social media strategies you can use as a small business to take your marketing from good to great:

  • Connect With People
    Sharing great content is only half the battle. If you want to truly engage your customers and keep them around, it’s important to follow up with them through conversations. This could involve responding to questions and comments posted by users on your page, liking a user’s post, thanking them for their support, etc. However you engage with users, remember to be genuine and true to the personality of your business because most customers can sniff out phoniness a mile away.
  • Feature Useful Content
    Take a cue from Jason Falls, the creator of Social Media Explorer who also serves as a digital strategy Vice President. According to Falls, “The key for any marketing channel, whether it be social media, email, or advertising, is to provide your audience with content that is really useful to them.” So what does this mean for you? If you’re the owner of a small computer business, you could post frequently asked questions and answers or give troubleshooting tips.

    If your company specializes in home décor, you could post ideas of ways customers can decorate with your products in their homes. If you own a science supply company, you could post ideas for activities and experiments that customers can do with your products. A heating company such as Haller Enterprises might post a list suggesting ways customers can be more energy efficient and lower their electric bill. Essentially, you want to think of what you have to offer the customer in terms of your products and services, and then empower the customer by providing them with information about those products and services.

  • Consistency is Key
    If you want to keep customers engaged, it follows that you need to post new content regularly. Optimal times for posting can depend on your business and what you’re selling. For instance, if you’re a school supply company, you might want to post on weekdays when teachers will be in their classrooms. If you’re a restaurant, your best bet might be to schedule posts for Fridays and Saturdays when you know people are getting ready to go out for the weekend.
  • Make Time for Social Buzz
    So you get it that posting regularly and interacting with customers is important, but what about when you’re crunched for time and you don’t have much in terms of resources? In this kind of situation, the key is to plan ahead. Sit down for a few hours and map out the topics and content you want to cover on social media for at least 60 days in advance. Next, put some time into crafting the content so that you have enough for a few Facebook posts and tweets on Twitter each day. You can even use tools like Buffer or HootSuite to automatically post your content on various social media networks according to a set schedule.

Clearly, social media can do a lot for your small business, no matter what kind of company you are. Whether it’s promoting products and services or engaging and interacting with customers. When it comes to making your business a success, the opportunity is there. Now the only question is, are you going to take it?

Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington is a writer, reporter, blogger, and social media enthusiast. He currently lives in PA and with his wife and son. Follow Scott at @SMHuntington.

Your Turn, Please

Questions by Leora: What examples of small local businesses using social media have you seen? Which ones work well and why? What are your ideas on social media for small business?

44 Responses to “Social Media for Small Business: How and Why”

  1. Great ideas and I know I should be able to sit down and craft some posts, in fact I thought I was doing well just to have a post done Sunday evening ready for Monday! lol
    Maybe my difficulty is time management or just not enough hours in the day, as the deadline looms close for my book’s release, Launch Party in January with it’s banners, bookings, jewellery, Christmas, Baby-sitting, posting on social media and I’d like to take a 2 day vacation in amongst that…
    Maybe I could make it a New Years resolution ; )

    • Thanks Claire! Yes, the holidays tend to make everything more difficult, especially when you take some time off but your amount of work that needs done stays the same. I like blocking off a section of time to work on the social media strategy for the week instead of doing it at random times. It’s a lot easier to focus that way, and nice to know I have a plan in the middle of the week when things go crazy.

  2. Catarina says:

    You are speaking to the converted, Scott.

    Social media really works and SME’s that get it right will reap a lot of benefits from their interactions on social media.

    To your question Leora, SME’s in Sweden selling consumer goods only need Facebook to succeed.

  3. Cassi says:

    Wow, 60 days in advance. I can barely think to the next day sometimes!

    • You don’t have to have 60 brilliant ideas in one day though. I like to create a template for the week. Monday will be something funny, Tuesday post about an event, Wednesday a “Question of the week”, Thursday feature a customer, and so on. Makes it a lot easier!

  4. Social Media seems to take up as much, or more, time as writing my actual blog, but I know it’s essential. I use Hootsuite to streamline the process a little. Thanks for the encouragement to keep working at it!

  5. Pamela Heady says:

    I SOOO agree that planning ahead is a wonderful thing. In my former position as the social media marketer for a performing arts center, I would do just that and spend several hours at the beginning of the week to plan and schedule Facebook posts that I felt were engaging, timely and fun. I also made a point to have close to half of my posts nothing about a particular show we were trying to sell tickets for. I prided myself on a great balance of show-specific posts as well as arts related, fun and community focused posts that created a well-rounded social media presence that hopefully was engaging and not too in-your-face!

  6. Planning is everything! LOL I learned that in my sales career prior to high tech when organization and planning were key to success. I find that doubly true now.

  7. Leora Wenger says:

    First of all, thanks to Scott for the post.

    Here are a few ways local businesses near me are using Facebook in particular:
    1) Posting restaurant photos with enticing tag lines
    2) Posting new products (toy store, dress shop)
    3) Running a competition for local charity – which one should be the donation of the month? This is quite successful.
    4) Thanking people on FB as they come in the auto sales/repair shop. (I suppose one has to pick carefully whom to thank – some might prefer privacy).
    5) Reminders about oil/heat/air conditioning checks.
    6) Weather reports and roads – auto-related businesses

  8. Diana says:

    Planning ahead does wonders. I used to spend those hours you mention to map out my smm calendar – i am using buffer now (thanks to a fellow blogger who reminded me of its existence) – now it’s easy and on the go. As i read a lot of posts, whenever i come across a useful post (like this one) – i buffer it – so i don’t waste time mapping out but still have it in my queue to share ;-)

    And, by the way, i LOVED how you give examples along with every tip you share – so few bloggers actually do that and it is SO helpful.

    Great post, thanks for writing it, Scott, and thanks for hosting this guest post, Leora :D

    • Thanks so much, Diana! Yeah, in this crazy world we live in it’s so important to map out things ahead of time. Otherwise you spend way too much time opening social media, trying to think of something, not coming up with something, and then thinking “I’ll try again later” just to go back and do the same thing. All that time adds up!

  9. Very informative and insightful post. Raises two important aspects of social media – involvement and planning. Too often we just post items and expect the world to come flocking to us! We need to reach out and interact with others virtually, as we do in our everyday life. And planning is something I know I could do better! Time management is my Achilles heel. May be a good New Year’s resolution … thanks for the good advice.

  10. Susan Cooper says:

    Using SM in any business is important for that business to grow and thrive in the future. It really is all about marketing what you knowledge and authority on the subject that your business represents. That said it All that makes good since along with mapping out a plan well in advance of the different holiday or events to capitalize on the collective think at a particular point in time. :)

    • Leora Wenger says:

      You are right, Susan, social media is here to stay. And planning ahead is important as you suggest – look at the calendar and see what will/might happen in a month – gear posts to those events. Besides holidays, could be snow or foliage or spring blooms.

  11. Jason B says:

    Those are some good tips. 60 days is basically 2 months worth of content. I find it easier to do a week or 2 at a time.

  12. All valuable points. For me queuing up posts 10 to 14 days in advance works. I do know a local blogger who does 3 months at a time, but I can’t mentally manage 2 or 3 months.

    My take away is to make your plan and stick to it adding value to every person you connect with through social media, including moving some conversations forward.

    Thanks Leora for introducing us to Scott.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Pat, you bring up a good point – the key is planning is important, but we usually have to find our own time rhythm.

      Glad you enjoyed Scott’s post.

    • That’s Patricia! The important thing is to have a plan, but also to be able to change your plan. Sometimes automating tweets can come back to bite you. If there’s a moment of tragedy (Sandy Hook shooting, Boston Marathon bombing, etc) you don’t want to seem out of touch by having a bunch of promotional tweets going off.

  13. Jeri says:

    Just last week, I started hearing radio ads for wine tours being offered in the Snake River wine region here in Idaho. I was intrigued, but then found the website and practically no information is available. The company has a lot of potential they don’t currently utilize on social media.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Great example, Jeri. The company understands old school advertising but not how valuable website, social media and other online information can be. Hopefully, they will learn.

    • I did social media for a winery for the years and there was so much room for awesome viral content. Those type of customers are really eager to contribute to having an interactive page. It was a lot of fun and some wineries are missing out!

  14. Arleen says:

    I have become a believer that social media is necessary if you want your business to survive in today’s world. With that said I am having problems with Facebook as they now want the a person instead of a company on Facebook. Do you have any suggestions?

    I can see on the backend of my website that people are going to the blog site and clicking onto my main site, so that is extra traffic I would not normally have.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Do you mean that the creator of the FB page has to be a person? It seems it’s been that way for a while. If that is your question, you can hide the admins for a page.

    • Interesting, Arleen, I hadn’t heard that, other that what Leora said about hiding the admins. It’s important to know the difference between a person’s profile and a business page though. I’ve seen small business start like they’re a person.

      If you have to “add friends” then you’re set up as a person.
      If you have to “get fans” then you’re set up as a page. Big difference.

  15. Thank you, very informative article. I think I underestimate the importance of social media just now, but I have to start thinking about how to organize work around SM.

  16. Angelina says:

    hey leora great and awesum content,,really usefull and informative.as social media is real hel[p in seo nowdays and realy help in marketing ..promoting products…thanks for the article,,,!!

  17. Angelina says:

    hey leora great and awesum content,,really usefull and informative.as social media is real hel[p in seo nowdays and realy help in marketing ..promoting products…thanks for the article,,,!!sm is important for future and growing your business so its important.

  18. Nadine S says:

    Hello All!
    I learned this lesson with my first business. I found social media to be a great connector and cool way to advertise as well! I started inter-socialing my accounts and had great success. I’m in the process of doing this again with another business here in Las Vegas (but still a Jersey girl at heart & foreva!). The best part is that socials work for all businesses these days, from the staunch corporate America to the cool and funky boutiques.

Leave a Reply