Planning and executing an effective online marketing strategy can be a big challenge for small businesses, but a little bit of expert advice can go a long way to getting you on the right track.
As the Commonwealth Bank Small Business Forum program kicks off around the country, small business expert, financial commentator and forum host Peter Switzer has put together a list of 10 ways SMBs can use social media to give their marketing a boost.
At the forums, Switzer will be exploring the social media boom of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and providing practical tips and advice on how to harness these new powers to generate larger business returns. But as many small business owners won’t be able to attend the forums, he’s created the following tips for marketing via social media:
1. Facebook: Facebook offers exceptional, low-cost marketing opportunities for small businesses as well as powerful platform on which a business can build a brand presence. A business page allows your customers or fans to “like” your business and receive updates via their news feed every time they log in.
2. Twitter: Twitter’s popularity is growing rapidly, and many small businesses have already jumped on board. Businesses can use Twitter to push brief messages (140-characters or less) to their ‘followers’ or for customer service. Depending on the relevance of your tweet, your followers can then re-tweet your message to their followers, reply to it and create a dialogue with you, or favourite a tweet to show they liked your message. To truly leverage the power of Twitter and have more flexibility and control over your strategy, businesses will need to learn to use advanced tools such as TweetDeck or HootSuite.
3. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a business-oriented social network for professionals with users from over 200 countries. LinkedIn has powerful features that many people don’t know about. For example, you can encourage your customers, clients or vendors to give a recommendation of your profile, making your business more credible with new customers.
4. Business blog: Business blogs offer great value for small businesses. Think about your business expertise and the things you can write about to promote your business, while keeping the content relevant and interesting for your readers. The best blogs are focused, well written, easy to use, and easy to share!
5. Participate on other blogs: Spending time on other blogs and participating in constructive discussions will build a level of credibility and trust with other people in the ‘blogosphere’. You should consider reaching out to other bloggers and asking whether they’d allow you to guest post an article on their site.
6. Mobile social networks and other local strategies: Your business can truly benefit from a presence on mobile social networks such as Yelp and Foursquare. Yelp publishes reviews about local businesses, while Foursquare is a combination of city-guide, friend finder and competitive game. Upload your website URL and photos to your profile, and encourage positive reviews for your business by running promotions and rewarding the regulars who “check-in” at your business.
At the very least, you should make it easy for people to find you by making sure your website is optimised for local searches.
7. Google Alerts: Google Alerts are free email updates from Google search results about any topic you’re interested in tracking. You can use this to your advantage by tracking the names of your competitors, your company and any other terms you believe are important to your business. Remember, Facebook and Twitter can also be used to follow what others are saying about your business. You can consolidate these searches by using a single tracking application, such as Alterian or Radian6.
8. YouTube: Multimedia sites like YouTube provide excellent social media marketing opportunities for small businesses. If you’re already posting videos to your blog, use YouTube to reach a broader audience and embed the video content in your blog posts or Facebook page. Increase the number of views to your video by creating content that has the potential to become very popular and then distribute it to as many social networks as you can.
9. Search engine optimisation (SEO):SEO is the process of organically improving the rank of your business blog or web page in search engines. In general, the higher the web page is ranked on the search results page, and the more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive. Optimising a website may involve editing its content and HTML code to increase its relevance to specific keywords that can be picked up by search engines.
For many small businesses, user accounts on social networks will be the highest-ranked pages in search results, so make sure you use the same usernames and user profiles across all networks.
10. Maintain brand consistency: There are thousands of social networks out there, so you want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to find you. Maintaining name consistency is important, but it isn’t enough by itself, you also need to make sure your brand speaks with a consistent “voice” across all social platforms.