Social media for small businesses – part 2 – Off to a good start

by JohanBe inspired23/09/2015

Social media for small businesses – part 2 – Off to a good start
Getting started with social media… that’s often easier said then done because, which social media should you have? And why?

As discussed in our previous article, there is no reason to avoid using social media. But what are good reasons to get into social media?

You are obviously the only one who can determine which reasons are the most important to you and your business but, generally speaking, the items below figure on most shortlists:

  • Know your customer

    with social media, it’s very easy to find out what your customers are about, what they are looking for and how you can help them with that. And all of that without, often expensive, customer surveys.
  • Customer loyalty

    Your customers will feel closer to you and more involved if you communicate with them (more) directly. And involved customers are loyal customers: they believe in you and your products or services. They are less apt to abandon your business in favour of your competitors and  they will share positive experiences.
  • Be known

    You want to know what customers need, but do your clients know what you stand for and what you are working on? Do clients know that that loaf of bread (sliced please) you just sold them was a new recipe, with better wheat? Or that you attented a workshop last week to take better care of the specialty beers you serve? Or the hours you spent pouring over the latest change in tax legislation to get your customers the best breaks? Share it and show your expertise!

There are many more reasons: communication is good for your image, your web site will attract more visitors because of better search results, you’ll be able to outsmart and outmaneuver your competitors, etc.

Which social media channels are best for you is also fodder for lively debates between believers and non-believers. Let’s have a look at the top three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Facebook is by far the biggest of the three with more than 1 billion users world wide and about 5.8 million in Belgium alone.

Facebook is very well suited to create your own business page and promote your business. A lot of companies invest (heavily, sometimes) in Facebook advertising campaigns. Be aware that those are anything but free and that too much advertising can also alienate customers. But if you’re looking to start in social media, Facebook is a good jump-off point.

Tip: if you’re also keen to share your personal convictions, holiday pictures and more with friends and family, it would be wise to create a personal page alongside your business page.

Tip 2: don’t forget to put your contact details and opening hours on your page

Twitter has about a million active users in Belgium. It’s a very cursory medium that is very suited to follow current affairs or to answer specific customer questions quickly. Tweets are limited to a maximum of 140 characters, so there’s not a lot of room for long messages. But for fast communication, Twitter is a perfect tool. As a result, it’s also very handy to provide first-line customer support. Do check beforehand whether your customers are actually present on Twitter.

LinkedIn is the odd one out in this short overview. It has about 2.5 million users in Belgium but it is purely a business channel and is really only suited if you work in a business-to-business environment.

Of course there are many other social media channels, each with their own flavour and characteristics. If you’re really into “manufacturing” real products (bakers, caterers, dress shop, flower shop, interior workers, etc.) then photomedia such as Pinterest and Instagram are certainly worth considering. They allow you to quickly post beautiful pictures of your creations and share the good work you are doing.

No such thing as a free lunch

It’s perfectly possible to communicate via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn without spending a single Euro. But the impact of that communication will be very, very small.

Each of the three channels limits the number of people who see your messages. You may have 500 Facebook friends, but only a small portion of them will actually be shown your latest update.

Of course, there’s a way around that… by paying. Each channel offers you the opportunity to “boost” your posts or tweets so more people (even outside your circle of friends/fans/followers) get to see them. Luckily it’s also possible to target your boosted posts based on age, location, gender, interests and many more parameters.

But the ‘free-for-all’ era, sadly, left the building some time ago.

Next time:  tips & tricks for a good start

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