25 Jul 2012
By Tannette Johnson-Elie
Social media has become an essential tool for promoting and growing a business. Millions of consumers use social media on a daily basis and research shows that 51 per cent of Facebook fans are likely to buy from a brand they “like” on the platform.
That’s plenty of incentive for small businesses to invest the time and money into social media marketing but if you’re like many small business owners, you’re probably too focused on survival to invest the time and resources into social media, even though research shows it could help your business grow.
New research from the Harvard Business Review reveal that many small business owners remain skittish of social media and are uncertain about how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other popular social networking sites.
The Harvard Review findings show that most small business owners consider social media a threat to productivity, intellectual capital, security, privacy, management authority and regulatory compliance, despite growing evidence that we all need to embrace such technology to compete.
The latest findings mirror an HBR report from last year that found leaders of most organizations have yet to recognize the potential value of social media.
It’s essential for small businesses and entrepreneurs to engage in social media to reach web-savvy consumers, says Rieva Lesonsky, founder and CEO of GrowBiz Media and a widely recognized small-business expert.
“It’s increasingly where consumers are, and there’s no easier way to have an ongoing conversation with your customers than social media,” said Lesonsky, who also is the author of the bestselling book, Start Your Own Business. “Social media takes time, especially at the beginning. But once you consider it an integral part of your marketing plans, it will likely save you money in the long run.”
The problem is social media can be overwhelming for small business owners whose focus is on running all aspects of their companies. There are a multitude of networks out there and it takes time to establish a presence on each one. That’s why it’s critical to develop a strategy and set goals.
Spend time evaluating the various social media platforms and determine which ones offer the most success in reaching your customers, says Wayne Breitbarth, social media trainer and consultant and author of The Power Formula for LinkedIN Success.
“Recognize that you can’t be great on all platforms. Evaluate the ones you think your customers are in and join those and be good on those platforms,” said Breitbarth, who conducts LinkedIn seminars throughout the U.S.
So, what are some additional strategies you can use to be successful on social media:
Observe before you tweet. Experts recommend small business owners observe businesses on Twitter that are similar to theirs and learn from them.
Get on LinkedIn and make sure your employees have a consistent branding message for your company, says Breitbarth.
Use Facebook to reach your primary customer base. Due Facebook’s sharing algorithm, one fan can multiply into a thriving fan base.
“The idea is to get your customers to “like” your business, so that their friends who aren’t connected with you can see your posts,” says Lesonsky, of GrowBiz Media.
Try devoting at least 30 minutes day to your social media activity. As you gain your footing, increase your time to an hour a day on social media. Success won’t happen overnight. That’s why it’s important to stay focused.
Are you in the game or on the sidelines? If you’re on the sidelines, what is keeping you from joining the conversation?