Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Comcast.
Social media is a crazy mashup of business, professional, political, religious, positive, negative, valuable, and junk. As a small business owner seeing posts about lunches and celebrities, you might find yourself wondering, as I once did, “How can social media actually help me grow my small business?”
Is Social Media Necessary to Survive as a Small Business Owner?
I’m often asked, “Do you need social media to grow your business?” The answer to this question is complex. There are certainly small businesses that have survived without social media – historically, businesses were successful before social media existed. However, in today’s market, even if you’re a hyperlocal business (meaning you really only have locally-based customers and clients), social media is becoming a much more important part of being successful and not just surviving, but thriving.
Social media also provides a credibility check – today, with reviews possible across the web, including on social media sites, your prospective customers and clients will be searching for information on your business, often before they even approach you.
Here’s the thing: If you haven’t created a page for your business, Facebook in particular will create a Facebook page for your business for you. It’s much, much better to claim your business page and monitor and manage it than to ignore it. You can’t get them shut down (if you do, it’ll be back up within days), and if you’re not caring for your social media pages and platforms, you’ll have no idea what’s going on out there and what’s being said about you.
So is social media necessary to survive as a small business owner? The answer is: on some level in today’s market…yes.
Tips for Social Media Success
There are right and wrong ways to increase sales via social media.
We’ve all seen how businesses push people to buy on social media. It seems that some business owners are constantly trying to sell, sell, sell. That’s the wrong way.
Comcast Business Community produced this fantastic webinar about how to use social media to increase sales in your small business the right way.
Social media is inherently social.
Social media is inherently social. Most business is based on building relationships. The more effective you are at relationship-building, the more successful your social media strategies will be. So how do you build relationships? Answer: Content, content, content.
Content is everything.
Content is blog posts, videos, articles, white papers, infographics, etc. that interest your audience. It’s all about establishing credibility and showing that you understand their needs. Develop content that speaks to the wants and fears of your target market and draw them in.
But don’t be so focused on content that you forget to have the conversation. Instead of just “post and run,” post your content, look for feedback, thank folks for sharing, and share others’ content as well. Remember: social media is social.
Focus on results.
Stop looking at “likes” and stop being wowed by “impressions.” Start looking for results. Did someone buy because of something you posted on social media? That is a result. Did they sign up for your email newsletter? That’s a result. But if they’re just “liking” something, that’s not a true result.
However, having said that, remember that social media is all about relationship-building. Someone might not buy immediately. Over time, a person might like, like, like your content and then, one day, finally something happens that tips them over to the other side and BOOM. They subscribe to your list. Or they buy your product. Or they hire you.
Just like in life, it takes time to build relationships. Some people are ready to make an immediate purchase. Others could take years. I’ve had clients who followed my content for seven years and then hired me.
You don’t have to be everywhere.
Don’t give up on social media just because it’s complex. Start with a couple of platforms – I like the big three: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – and work from there. Remember to focus on your target market and where they’ll be looking for businesses like yours, and use that as a way to determine where to invest your time.
If you need help, bring in an expert.
There’s never a wrong time to ask for help. If you need guidance and support, hire an expert who can get you started and help you create a plan. If you’re not getting sales from social media, then there’s probably a reason why, and your strategy could be tweaked. So don’t be afraid to ask for help.
With over 75% of people online today on at least one social media platform, your business should be making use of this valuable tool. Make sure you’re doing it the right way, by following the advice of experts who know how to get results.