Do you see other businesses successfully using social media to grow their businesses and want the same for yours?

Many business owners see the opportunity and potential in social media for their business but they aren’t sure where and what to share.

I work with many small business owners from different industries and have heard many of the same questions asked. I’ve also heard a variety of success stories that share common themes. Here are 5 things to consider when getting your business started in social media.

1. Determine your business goals for social media

Think about what you already have in place today and what you want to change about it, how do you want social media to help your business?

Is your goal to:
• Build brand awareness through a social media presence?
• Attract future customers and increase the client base your business serves?
• Engage new and current customers with a short-term campaign or promotion?

Your goals may change as you start to build more of a presence online, that’s not only normal but also a good thing to consciously adjust as you start to understand the full potential for social media and your business.

2. Be thoughtful about your content

A common challenge for many is determining what kind of content they should be sharing, and they often wonder:
• How frequently should I share?
• Do I need a blog, video, or something else?
• Should I tag other people and businesses?
• What social media platform is right for my business?
• How important are images?

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Be you: The best way to answer these questions is to think about what you’re most comfortable with. It’s as simple as that. If you’re a natural in front of people or in front of a camera, then consider video. If you’re a natural writer, then a blog might be right for you. Whatever kind of content you choose to create for your business, make sure you connect the channels you use with one another and your website.
Example: A customer who sees your video on social media should be able to find their way to your blog (if you have one) easily and without much thought.

Be consistent: When you start sharing content, the consistency of the frequency in which you share is more important than the number of times you share. So, if you need to start small with one post per week, do that – pick one platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) share every week, once a week and on the same day.

3. Consider Etiquette

Each social media platform has its unwritten rules of engagement. Make sure to respect those rules so that you and your business are an addition to the conversation and not an interruption or disruption to the conversation. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

• Don’t tag without asking – tagging in itself can be a great tactic for exposure and even giving another person or business a pat on the back, but if you don’t know the party that you intend to tag, reach out to them first and ask if you can tag them. Skipping this step could give the impression that your business is spamming other users by randomly tagging them.
• Sharing is great – read a great article that you think your customers would like and benefit from? Share it from the original source on social media. Credit your source and let your audience know why you think they’d like the information. Sharing is an important part building trust in any social media community.
• Avoid only being a megaphone for your business – remember that social media is…well, social. Which means you’re socializing with people, just digitally. You wouldn’t walk into a crowded room and start shouting that people should buy your services, so don’t do that in social media either. Try to start conversations, be helpful, be honest, and be authentic.

4. Choose your platform

The different social media platforms all have their strengths, weaknesses, pros and cons. So think about your goals and think about your business to determine the platform that makes the most sense. Start with these considerations of some of the leading platforms:

• Facebook – popular among small businesses and individuals of many ages, allows for reviews and other business features like ads
• Instagram – great for businesses that are visual by nature (landscaping, home repair, pet grooming, etc.), provides an easy-to-use platform to display your businesses best work
• Twittter – good platform for industries that are involved in trending conversations (finance, sports, politics, pop culture) and for business owners who like to be connected and constantly a part of the conversation
• LinkedIn – if your personal brand is important to your business (lawyers, CPA’s, etc.) this platform is a good starting place for spreading the strength of your personal brand to help establish your business name

No matter what platform you choose, consider what kind of content you’re going to share and where your customers are most likely to be to determine the right fit for your business.

5. Decide how to measure

Before you get going in social media, first decide how you’ll measure success once you are sharing. Even if you set some goals that are a shot in the dark to start with, that will give you something to measure against and data to inform how you’ll want to measure in the future.

• Likes – Likes are a simple metric to measure, they are somewhat limited but are easy to track
• Shares – Far more meaningful than likes, a share not only means that you shared something so relevant your audience wanted to pass it onto someone else, but also by them passing it on, your content just got even more exposure
• New customers – Ask. Seems simple, but often overlooked, if you send out a survey ask your customers how they learned about you. Or, start asking new customers when you meet them for the first time how they heard about your business. If you start hearing “social media” then you’ll know your efforts are having a positive impact on your business.

Get Started Today: 3-Step Action Plan
• Carve out 30 minutes a week to dedicate to social media
• Pick one segment and focus your content around those people
• Run a promo event that encourages sharing and is different from your regular content

One last tip: Once you decide to start sharing, don’t forget to let your customers know that you’re on social media:
• Put a sign up at your business location
• Put social media icons on your business cards
• Include links to social media on your website

Social media can be a great tool to help you build relationships and spread the word about your business. Keep your goals in mind and you’ll find that being a part of the conversation will help you connect with your customers and grow your business.

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