With so many benefits, small and medium businesses (SMBs), including systems integrators, are doing right by jumping on social media. Often, I hear entrepreneurs saying “it’s important” or “it’s free marketing.”
While both of those sentiments are true, many platforms may be free – but your time is not. Social media is still work, but it’s also worth it.
Already, 73% of Americans are using some form of social media; that’s almost three-quarters of the U.S. population actively networking, conversing, and sharing information in growing virtual communities. Creating an online identity will give an SMB access to these groups. Social media isn’t only for big business, though: Once an SMB realizes the potential of incorporating different platforms, the next step is to determine an approach that makes the most of them.
Adhering to these five principles will help integrators stay on target:
1. Stay Relevant
The digital culture changes quickly. One thing that isn’t projected to change is people’s desire for timely, quality content. SMBs should keep on top of new industry and/or brand developments, and anticipate customer needs. How an SMB relays its information is what will set it apart from the pack:
- Appeal to the qualities that matter most to prospects. Social media is about interaction. Running contests or hosting relevant Twitter chats can help build a following. Businesses will benefit by focusing on making prospects feel they’re worth something to the company. Emotional stakes are a powerful motivator.
- Ask for input. SMBs should ask for their customers’ advice when making business decisions. Taking polls and asking opinions when deciding on which new products or services to add is good practice. You’ll get a better idea of what your customers are looking for, and your social media fans and followers will look forward to seeing the results of their contributions.
- Share what resonates. Not every bit of information a business produces needs to be shared. Retweet and share content from industry peers that will resonate with potential clients. Is there a new development in your world? A new technique? Sharing other people’s stats, ideas, and observations can help build your following and online reputation as a thought leader.
2. Be Helpful
Social media is just one more way for your firm to focus on customer service. Consider these platforms as another way to be helpful to existing and potential customers:
- Care about customers’ needs. Social media has made customer service a priority. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and similar models increase the contact between a business and its customers. Small businesses should reply and pay attention to comments and questions shared on their feeds.
- Social selling. This is a big topic being discussed in the business world. Selling products and services on the Internet is no longer limited to browsing and shopping. Social media has made it possible to reach customers during the research phase of their buying journey. Companies providing continuous insights into customer needs can influence prospects’ decisions.
- Establish credibility. Trust remains a critical factor in good business. SMBs using LinkedIn and other networking forums make it easy for consumers to locate valuable corporate information. Profiles should include details that can help prove a business has legs to stand on.
3. Showcase Personality
Successful social media campaigns require an authentic voice. Posts should be open, honest, and friendly, and reflect expertise. Customers are looking for advice, and they smile favorably upon the sources they can trust the most.
4. Serve, Serve, Serve
Social media is work, so businesses need to do their research. Who’s the target audience? How can platforms get prospects the information they’re looking for?
Serving a bigger vision is also something to consider. Businesses can align themselves to a charity or cause, or represent an attitude befitting to an online community.
5. Be Consistent
Integrating social media can be overwhelming. SMBs new to it should start small. Choose one or two platforms, and develop a daily plan. Building a following requires providing consistently new and relevant content. Listening and sharing is invaluable, but only when practiced consistently.
Automation can help; your time isn’t free. Investing in tools for networking and managing your social media accounts will save hours of effort. Businesses should aim to strike a balance between automation and real-time conversation.
Schedule posts ahead of time, but not too far ahead of time. Planning content a month in advance will result in sharing inaccurate, outdated news. Planning days in advance for peak times can boost your following.
Software, such as Curata, can help generate content of interest to a business. It will scour blogs and journals so owners don’t have to; however, every blog, video, or photo should be pre-approved before sent out.
By following these steps, SMBs can benefit from social media as much as larger corporations. They just need to approach it in the right manner. —Dan Newman, Cofounder of V3*Broadsuite
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Image by: KROMKRATHOG