The initial part of this series explored the need for small businesses to use social media and what were some of the critical steps in the process. Questions were raised to assist the small business owner to focus their efforts in the best way possible to achieve the desired results based upon the overall objectives and goals of the marketing plan. It gave a few tips on how to specifically identify the target audience and where they could be found on social media.
It is possible to compare the selection of the tools for social media to how a farmer selects the tools. First he/she surveys the land to determine the best type of crop to plant. This is similar to the owner reviewing the business website. The website for the small business is very much like the land for the farmer. It must be easy to use, provide content, contains various ways for people to interact with business and other ways to link with the business. As the farmer begins to make a choice of crop or crops to plant, he/she identifies who will be buying the crops. For the owner, it is the identification of the target audience. The farmer then makes the selection of the crop or crops that will produce the greatest results for them and develops a plan or process that will be used to plant the crops. This includes the review of the tools the farmer has on hand and the tools he/she needs to purchase or lease to complete the job of planting. Thus the farmer reviews each of their tools to ensure they are in good condition and able to perform effectively the tasks that need to be accomplished.
As the farmer makes the decisions about crops, the owner has to make the choice of the products or services he/she are going to provide to customers. The owner must review the website and began asking the questions that will assist in making the correct decisions on improvement.
- How effective has the website been in assisting creating more sales?
- What kind of content are we providing that helps prospective customers?
- What is on the site that keeps the customer captured in order for them to spend more time looking at other products?
- Do I have links to other social media sites?
- Do I have a place for them to sign up for something free I am giving them?
- What other things can I offer to them to keep them on the site longer or have them buy a product or service?
The implements for the farmer are limited by the type of product they are going to produce and the overall size of the area to be planted. For the owner, the implements for social media are much more varied and are dependent on the target audience and the overall time that a small business owner plans to expand on social media. Presently, the major tools being used include: Facebook, Twitter; LinkedIn; You Tube; and Google+.
While the ones listed above are the most popular and used most often, they are not the only tools that are available for a small business. Some other tools being used are Tumblr, Slideshare, Instagram, Foursquare, Yelp, Pinterest, Gentlemint and Merchant Circle. Each one of these tools provides different formats and reaches different audiences.
So much as the farmer decides on the best tools for planting the crops, small business owners must do the same thing. As we review the popular tools, it is important for you as the small business owner to keep in mind your target audience; also, the amount of time you want to expend in using social media.
Social media tools discussed below have requirements that you create a profile. The profile will differ somewhat between social media platforms. It is important that the owner complete each of the profiles. This becomes the key for people to learn to know about the owner and the services or products that the company provides. Some of the requested information include: name, picture, professional headline, current title, web sites, public profile, summary, specialties, experience, education, interests, groups and associations, skills, personal information, contact settings, and companies.
The tool called Facebook is one of the most popular of the tools and is constantly growing. Businesses of all sizes are using this tool. Businesses create fan pages and business pages to promote their business. They ask people to like their pages in order to create greater number of followers. When they post updates people who have asked to get notifications and feeds will get them. This is a way for them to promote their brands, events, and coupons. Before selecting this as the place where you want your business listed as an owner must understand that just posting a page is not sufficient. It requires time to place status updates and respond to updates in a timely manner. It is about the relationship you are creating. Prior to select this tool the owner should check for the demographics of the website to ensure it fits the target audience.
LinkedIn as a tool is one of the most powerful tools for connecting with professionals. It is a tool that allows a person to develop a professional profile, upload a resume and join groups, create groups and follow individuals and companies. It is a good source to find information about a person or company. It is an excellent way to connect to other professionals across the nation and world as well as generate request for introductions to others. It allows a user to maintain a contact list of people they know and trust in business and can use to help connect with others. As with other tools, it must be used professionally and needs to have ongoing maintenance. Interactions are also important in establishing your creditability with this tool.
Twitter is another of the more popular tools in social media. It requires more attention than others because it is more like carrying on several conversations. It is used worldwide and can be considered a micro blogging site. It is a good tool to keep people posted as to what is occurring in your industry and information that as a business should be shared with others. It is a means of connecting with leaders in your industry and finding out their thoughts and how they influence people. As with the other tools, it requires a time commitment to maintain and respond to twits or updates from people.
YouTube is a video sharing social media site that is owned by Google. This site has grown considerably and is now the number two search engine. Business and individuals use this as a means of connecting with people using a visual mode. Studies show that people will watch a short video rather than read a large amount of data. It is also used as an educational platform and provides various types of self-development information. It is a great platform for delivering video-based testimonials, how to guides and commercials promoting products and/or services. As with other tools, a business can subscribe to other users and receive information when new posts are made. Before selecting this medium recognize that new videos will need to be developed and uploaded to be an effective tool.
Google+ (Google Plus) is a relative new tool as far as social media is concerned. It is used by both businesses and individuals. It provides a few more tools to use within the site than some of the others. Some of them include: Circles, Hangouts, Messenger, Instant Upload of Photos, Hashtags, Explore posts, Find People, Events, Find Local Businesses, Create Business Pages and more. The features make it easy for an individual to use. Since it is part of the Google product line one must have a Google Email account to use Google+. As a whole when viewed with the other Google product provides a great arsenal of tools to assist small business become more successful.
The tools we have briefly discussed are some of the most powerful being used presently, but they are only as good as the owner who selects to use them. The owner must remember that as a farmer selects the tools, the owner must do the same that are best for the designed marketing plan. The use of the tools themselves for owner is most important. Once the farmer prepares the field with the right tools and plants the seed, it is now important to water the seeds and plants until it is time to harvest. The owner has prepared his website, selected the social media tools based upon the marketing design, prepared each of the sites with the requested profiles and published each of the sites.
Now as the farmer waters the owner must use the status updates, tweets, messages, videos, slides. Responding to comments is also the way that a owner works with small business to establish the know, like and trust factors. This must be done with consistency overtime. As discussed in the previous article, social media is the developing of relationships with people and that does not happen quickly. Thus it is of utmost importance that a regular schedule be developed and implemented on a weekly basis.
The next segment of the series will review and look at social media sites that are up and coming and sites that are very powerful but have not gained in the overall popularity. As with the others, each has its strengths and weaknesses. Each therefore has different demographics and different targets. The business owner needs to have an understanding in order to select the best tool. A discussion of some of the sites that are better for international use will also be discussed. The subsequent articles will deal with tools to use to make using social media a little easier and ways to measure the return on investment of social media. The final part of the series will discuss other web-based tools that can assist small business become more effective in delivering services and products to customers.
As a owner, take the time to review each of the demographics for the sites. If you do not have a social media site, then select one that fits your demographics. Ask questions, raise concerns, review your goals, and talk to those who are using the sites, and then move forward with your plan.