When reviewing business headlines and news stories it can be difficult to decide which topic is mentioned more often -- data analytics or social media. This can be even more frustrating if you, as an entrepreneur, are trying to decide where to focus your limited time, money, and energy to help give your business an edge. Making adoption of social media strategies even more difficult is the fact that this field changes so rapidly. Many of the negative reactions to social media are usually based on an understanding of social media that is limited to snarky Tweets, sharing funny cat videos, and using different filters on Snapchat. This understanding, however, provides only an incomplete view of what social media can do for you and your business.
A great thing, especially for Millennials and other entrepreneurs focused on the bottom line, is that the vast majority of social media tools are free to use. As I am sure you have seen, however, there are many different types of social media you could use for your business. It is also important to recognize that while most social media tools are free to use, there are certain products and services that provide a base level of services for free, but charge for more sophisticated services.
Another wrinkle that can complicate your efforts to get the most for your social media dollars is that many small businesses do not put together a social media strategy that works for business. Fortunately there are some common sense, and budget friendly, things you can do to increase the impact of your social media bucks.
These suggestions and ideas are certainly not meant to be exhaustive, but should give an idea of how to get the most out of social for your business, and to do so in a way that is also friendly to your bottom line.
1. Figure out which platform works for you
Social media encompasses a variety of options, not all of which are going to be equally as helpful for your business. For example, if you own a bakery, work in retail, or own a floral business on the side, Pinterest might be the best way to showcase your business. Focusing on showcasing your business in the best possible light always makes sense, and is no different for social media utilization.
2. Determine where your customers are
There is a lot of information out there dissecting what types of demographics are on which types of platforms, but generally speaking, if your business has a Facebook and Twitter presence you are in good shape. Both platforms, especially Facebook, have incredibly large platforms that can boost the reach of your business without costing you an arm and a leg.
3. Make sure you have a plan
Few things are more depressing for consumers and customers than to look for a business on social media, to see that they do have a social media presence, but that the platforms have not been updated. After you have selected your social media platform of choice, it is important to put together a plan (even a simple plan) on how often you will update, post, or otherwise engage on social media.
4. Engage with your market
Virtually every professional group has an organizational association, but even for entrepreneurs and small business owners there are people and organizations you should definitely engage with on social media. Chambers of commerce, small business development centers, and other local resources are just a few of the groups that you should be sure to engage with, and they are always happy to hear from interested parties.
5. Use what works
There is no shame in observing what your competition is doing, making it your own, and customizing it for your business. Especially for social media, where content is posted and shared on a minute-by-minute basis, it is even easier to adapt your approach to your customers and professional associations.
6. (Bonus) Approach it like a business
Taking the approach to social media like everything else your business does might seem a bit odd at first, but it actually makes perfect sense! Social media is a potentially great tool, should be used to help build and expand your business, and can be implemented without breaking the bank.
Social media can, unfortunately, turn into an activity that can drain productivity and energy from your business if you let it. That said, it is impossible to overlook the benefits of building a social media strategy, engaging with customers, and expanding the reach of your business in an increasingly digital environment. Approaching social media from a business perspective, setting up a plan, and selecting the right strategy for your business can set your business up for an effective social media campaign.