Question from a Web.com Facebook Fan: “What are some key methods most commonly used with effective social media management for the overall success of a new small business in our local area(s)?”
This is a bit of a loaded question, although probably not an uncommon one for many small business owners. The dilemma is that you’re asking about social media tactics, without first giving consideration to business types, goals or strategies. The usefulness of simply knowing the most widely-used tactics would be of very little value without first applying basic marketing fundamentals to one’s social media marketing- that is, developing a strategy based upon their individual products and services; target markets; and goals and objectives.
One hallmark of social media is the sheer number of options available to small businesses. There are forums and blogs like the one you are in; microblogs like Twitter; social networking sites like Facebook; news aggregators like Digg; content communities like YouTube; mobile-social space-time apps like Foursquare; review sites like Yelp; directories; and the list goes on.
Most small businesses do not have the resources (time, staff or budget) to be able to effectively implement and manage all available options, so should seek to incorporate only those channels and tactics which make the most sense based upon their specific business profiles. Are you selling directly to consumers or other businesses? Is your business online, bricks-and-mortar or both? What are the demographics of your customers- their gender, age, income, interests, etc.? And finally, what is it that you wish to accomplish with social media- improve SEO? Drive brand awareness? Provide customer service? Generate leads or sales? Foster engagement or build loyalty? Only once you’ve answered these questions can you truly begin to make informed decisions about the best ways to use social media for your business.
Now, I know nothing is more frustrating than asking a simple, straightforward question and having a hoity-toity corporate expert come back and reply, “It depends”. So, if you’ll forgive me for saying that, “It really does depend!” and promise me you’ll at least start with some form of basic plan or meaningful consideration of the questions above, then I’ll provide some of the most common and effective methods for driving the overall success of most local small businesses.
- First, recognize the high degree to which social media, especially on a local level, is intertwined with SEO and PR. It’s all online marketing, visibility and digital word-of-mouth. If you want to maximize your ability to achieve local business success, start by establishing a professionally designed and coded website properly optimized for local search engine visibility; one that is clearly organized, intuitive and utilizes strategic key words including your local geographic location in its meta-data (title tags, descriptions, alt tags, H1 and H2 tags), and content. Hoity-toity tips: Get really local- Don’t just think city-wide, think neighborhood-level to take advantage of less competitive long-tail search queries. Also, make sure your website is either responsive, mobile optimized or that you have a separate mobile site! Today, social media is embedded in people’s lives and the traffic coming from their mobile devices is skyrocketing.
- Submit your website to local online search directories, most notably Google Places for Business, Bing Places for Business, Yahoo Local, Manta, Yelp and DMOZ. Hoity-toity tips: Google, “Google My Business”. Google continues to streamline its online listing services to make it easier for businesses to achieve online visibility. “Google My Business” was launched two weeks ago and puts your business information on Google Search, Maps, Google+ or mobile devices through a single portal. Understand that there are many other local directories, and you should seek to be on as many as you can with updated business information.
- Register your business name on all of the primary social platforms, then pick a relevant channel or two, and launch active pages. If you sell directly to customers, the first almost has to be Facebook. It is still the largest social network on the planet with 1.23 billion monthly active users, 945 million mobile users and 757 million daily users. It is safe to assume that a few of your local customers (and their friends) are using it! LinkedIn is great for B2B businesses. Pinterest is excellent for businesses geared to women, crafts or luxury brands. Twitter is particularly good for connecting with influencers and media, and gaining exposure for blog content. Instagram is great for brands that lend themselves to strong imagery. And Google+ is… well- Google! You can assume that it sends strong search signals. Hoity-toity tips: Try to keep you brand name and image as consistent as possible across channels to reinforce your brand and make yourself easier to find.
- If you have a physical location where customers congregate, then be sure to list your business on location apps like Foursquare & Yelp Hoity-toity tips: Don’t try to game Yelp or purchase positive reviews. Do ask customers for reviews, especially regular users. Always respond to all of your reviews.
- Consider starting a blog. If you can commit to posting two or three posts per week, a blog can go a long way to building trust, authority and online search visibility. You can (and should) repurpose your blog content on your social channels to get maximum mileage from your content. Hoity-toity tip: Remember to include social sharing icons for every post so that others can distribute your content on their own social networks.
- Can’t commit to blogging? Increase your visibility by distributing PR Releases once a month. Hoity-toity tip: You can distribute press releases for free on sites like PRlog.org, PRUrgent.com, Newsvine.com and many others. The ones I’ve named seemed to get the highest rankings in the search engines among free sites.
- Create and/or curate relevant content, then distribute it.
- Create content that is relevant, useful, educational, inspirational, humorous and easy to consume by your fans. Hoity-toity tip: Remember- If you’re shooting for local visibility, then try to keep the bulk of your content local and relevant to your audience.
- If you don’t have time to create your own content, curate and post relevant content created by others. Hoity-toity tip: Find content by others by subscribing to blogs and newsletters or set Google alerts for notices of certain keywords.
- Post a few times per week and engage with your customers. Hoity-toity tip: While you want to strive for some posting consistency, always choose quality over quantity and you’ll be rewarded!
- Create special offers and promotions exclusively for your social community members Hoity-toity tip: Special offers are the #1 reason why people “like” brands on Facebook
- Run contests. You can run simple quiz and caption contests right on your timeline on Facebook without even using an app. Hoity-toity tip: Leverage user-generated content by running a contest where entrants must upload content like pictures, videos, stories or advice.
- Try Facebook advertising to extend the reach of your content. Hoity-toity tip: It’s true that Facebook has clamped down on organic reach to increase its ad revenue. The good news is that just a small dollar amount per post can greatly increase your reach, and Facebook advertising (including promoted posts, news feed ads, etc.) all offer exceptional targeting to connect with customers by location, interests and other demographics.
- Try PPC ads with Google AdWords. It can provide you with instant traffic for specified local search terms. It’s easy to track and monitor, and you can start and stop at will, making it very low-risk. Compare your ROI to Facebook advertising to see which works best for you. Hoity-toity tips: Rather than wasting money bidding for highly searched keywords, try using a higher number of less competitive, but more specific keywords. Geo-targeting will help you attract those local customers.
- Create an email list and start using it to stay connected with your customers. Capture emails by using call-to-actions and simple sign-up forms on your website and/or inside your store. Remember to provide an incentive for customers to sign-up and always allow them to opt out at any time. Hoity-toity tips: While you want to provide value in emails, avoid using words like “free” in your subject lines, which can trigger spam filters. Localization, such as including a city name in the subject line can help your open rates.
- Start collecting customer testimonials, then sharing them on your website and in social media Hoity-toity tip: Repurpose your testimonials. Use them throughout your website, in marketing emails and by sharing them in social media.
- When using social media, be sure to integrate your offline efforts with your online efforts. Hoity-toity tip: Include links to your social accounts everywhere, from your website, blog and email signature to your business cards, offline advertising, in-store signage, POP counter displays and press releases. Integrate! Integrate! Integrate!
- When in doubt- consult a professional. Hoity-toity tip: Online marketing does not have to be cost or time-prohibitive. Web.com can assist with strategy development, as well as most of the tactical approaches here at very affordable rates. We hope this helps, and continued success!