The 7-step guide to using social media for small business owners

This guest post is by Phoebe Netto, the Managing Director of Good Business Consulting, a marketing and public relations consultancy for small-to-medium businesses. Phoebe has a background in public relations and marketing, and takes these skills that are often reserved for big businesses with big budgets, and uses them to help good small businesses grow and meet their objectives. Visit www.goodbusiness.net.au (be sure to sign up for the Good Business Consulting newsletter and check out the blog while you’re there) or follow her on Twitter at @Phoebe_Netto
In marketing yourself and your business, you should aim to be at every watering hole where your ideal clients congregate. After all, if people do not know that you exist and what you can offer, how else will they become clients? For many of you, one of those waterholes will include social media.
Social media opens up a whole new audience to you, provides a means to make new connections, and gives you the tools to introduce yourself and your services in a subtle way to your ideal clients.
It allows you to extend the reach of your thought leadership and gives you the opportunity to share examples of your work and testimonials. Social media can also provide you with a constant flow of advice, ideas, and links to resources that are focused on your area of expertise or interest.
Regardless of what social media platform you decide to use, there are universal principles or golden rules that you must adhere to. You will notice that these rules are not much different to society’s rules for social engagement offline.
1.        Do things on purpose
If you are on twitter, know why you are on twitter and let your tweets reflect your purpose. The same rule applies for every social media platform. For example, I help small-to-medium businesses and sole operators grow with marketing and public relations. I need to ensure that the majority of my tweets on twitter are about small business, marketing and public relations. My twitter followers should know what to expect of my twitter content.
One of the mistakes that many small businesses and sole operators make when using social media is that they do not choose the right platform. This results in busy activity rather than productivity. Only focus on social media platforms that are a gathering place for your unique target group.
For example, young pet owners would be more inclined to interact with you on facebook than on LinkedIn. If you are a freelance journalist, twitter would be best as there are countless editors to interact with there and you can share links to examples of your work.
2.        It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason
Always remember that social media is not a foreign land speaking in another language. It is real life with real people, real relationships and real conversations.
This is why many of the same social etiquette principles that we value and operate by in business and in life, also apply to social media.
3.        It is better to give than to receive
In my business there are a couple of principles that lead to successful marketing and public relations. In media relations if you give others (journalists, editors and the publication’s readers) what they want, you will get what you want. For example, if I help a journalist by giving them a great piece of news or a well-written bylined article, I will get what I want which is great coverage for my client.
Similarly, marketing is most successful when it is focused on meeting needs and making life easier and more pleasant for others. When a small business addresses the deepest concerns and desires of both its clients and potential clients, and makes them feel special, they will attract leads and repeat business.
When operating by the following rules, social media can deliver your message to new audiences, provide you with new connections, and act as a platform to share your expertise and thought-leadership:
4.        No yelling in the hallway (or on social media)
Would you ever walk into a room full of strangers and announce, “I can take your business to the next level at half the price”? No? Didn’t think so. So don’t do it on social media.
If you notice that someone on your social media platform asks for a recommendation or complains that they can’t find a good provider of a certain product or service, then sure – feel free to suggest a solution or offer to discuss offline with them. You might even land a nice piece of new business. The point is to be helpful, with brings me to my next point.
5.        Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you
Use social media to share, give value, help others, provide helpful information, collaborate, and create a reason for people to want to know more about you and what you do.
You can give value and at the same time promote your business by sharing links to your blog, provide thought leadership, expertise and helpful advice. This shows that you are passionate about your industry area and gives people a non-confrontational and subtle way to experience your knowledge.
Make sure you also share other people’s blog posts, links to useful website, spread great social media content (such as tweets) from others, and promote other businesses (if worthy of promotion). Remember, it’s not all about you!
6.        You have two ears and only one mouth for a reason
My mother always used to tell me this and she was right (as usual). Social media is not a forum for monologues. Those who do not interact or listen to what others are saying on social media will eventually find themselves very lonely (offline and online).
Worthless tweets and overactive robots cause more harm than good.
Instead interact with others by asking questions, offering advice and responding to other people’s online questions.
7.       All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
Show your personality. People do business with people, not companies. So make sure show your personality so people can feel a connection.
Be sincere. You can’t fake relationships – even on social media. Put a smile on the faces of those who follow you.
These principles are also golden rules of social media. Zig Ziglar summarised it by saying, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” When you follow these principles you are well on your way to building important connections with your ideal clients.
Social media is one of the greatest tools available to small-to-medium businesses and sole operators. You can communicate directly with your ideal clients without going through a ‘middle-man’ such as a journalist, advertisement or website.

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