While many small businesses have taken their time to embrace social media platforms, it’s now obvious that the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses. Social media allows you to build a sense of community around your own brand. The key is not to see it as a promotional tool but as a relationship building opportunity.
Social media allows you to actively build and manage your reputation, position yourself as the go-to source in your niche, and strengthen your profile and actively manage your content.
Which platform will you use?
There are so many social media platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram – the list goes on. So which ones are right for you? Or should you be on all of them?
If you are new to social media, pick the platform that resonates most with you. Think about what platform is the most popular among your industry or niche.
Pick one or two platforms and commit to learning them. Set goals on how often you update and interact – the more often the better.
Develop a strategy
Take the time to stop and think about what you want to accomplish. It’s pointless to create accounts for every social media outlet without a clear understanding of your objectives.
You need to define your objectives on why you want to use social media. Are you joining to make more contacts within your industry? Do you want to build on your relationships using an online medium? Would you like more engagement from your current customers? Do you want others in your industry to know you’re up to date with the latest trends?
Whatever the reason, you’re bound to find an outlet that suits your business; the options are plentiful.
Connect with others
Don’t just connect with people you know. Identify key communities and opinion leaders who are likely to talk and have the ability to influence the opinions of others.
Share your brand information with them, in a genuine way. Engage with them by retweeting their tweets or growing your LinkedIn network.
Join the conversations
Putting your brand out there will provoke debates, opinions and comments that might not necessarily be all positive. On the flipside, if you aren’t on social media these conversations may be happening without your input, without a chance for you to defend yourself or your business.
Create your own conversations
People won’t share your content if it isn’t useful or interesting. So good content, interesting visuals, and relevant information are critical.
Share interesting and valuable information such as articles and tips. Don’t be afraid of people stealing your IP, the more you share, the more people will recognise you as an expert.
Build your reputation
Reputation is the new currency and it’s all about building trust. So start building your online reputation.
Start a YouTube channel offering tips. Write guest articles on blogs your influencers read. Offer free, amazing content on your website or blog. On social networking sites offer helpful information, share interesting links and content, and interact with people.
Acknowledge your excuses
If the first thing that comes to mind when you think social media is “I don’t have time”, recognise it as an excuse.
Remember that a lack of time should not be a social media deal breaker. If you’re struggling, start out slow and seek help from others. Watch what competitors are doing, do some research through Google, and don’t be afraid of putting you or your business out there. Embracing social media takes time – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
About the author
Catriona Pollard is the author of From Unknown To Expert, a step by step framework designed to help entrepreneurs develop effective PR and social media strategies to become recognised as influencers in their field. She is also the director of CP Communications, which merges traditional PR tactics with cutting-edge social media strategies that engage consumers as well as business.