These days, it can be hard not to feel bombarded by Social Media, what with 900 million active users on Facebook and 200 million plus on Twitter. The majority of the small business owners I train or work with certainly feels a heightened sense of obligation and urgency to navigate the Social Media landscape. But, in the rush to, they invariably end up making critical and costly mistakes for their businesses. Check out these five common mistakes and Soci@lite’s suggestions for how to avoid them:
1. The Best Things Online Aren’t Free
Social Media does not cost anything other than in time and effort. It’s free to join Facebook, create a Twitter profile or set up a blog – fantastic news for small businesses, right? Not once you factor in the constant commitment that Social Media demands, from updating your channels with fresh content to engaging with your followers and industry peers, not to mention keeping tab on your competitors.
Potentially, it could be taking you or a member of your staff (if you’re doing well enough to have one) as much as ten hours a week to manage all of your Social Media accounts – you do the maths! Consider outsourcing your monthly Social Media activity to somebody with the time, the tools and the inclination.
2. Don’t Compare or Compete with the Giants
If you’re running a small business, the hard earned money you’ve allocated for your own marketing budget is merely a drop in the Atlantic for the likes of Coca Cola and Starbucks and there is little if anything you can do to change this. The good news however, is that your business doesn’t need to even attempt to keep up with the big brands, particularly when it comes to contests and campaigns.
Whilst incentivisation via giveaways and competitions is one of the most effective ways to generate new likes and improve overall engagement, small businesses should not feel pressurised to offer flashy prizes that are well beyond their budget. Instead, consider giving away one of your services or a free e-Book instead of a free iPad. This may not the sexiest prize and is unlikely to generate universal interest amongst your potential followers, but whoever does participate is already a captive audience, enthusiastic ambassador for your business and a potential client.
3. Value of Exchange versus Hard Sell
This is perhaps the most difficult lesson for the small business owner to learn and take on board without a large marketing budget to spend. Whilst it is a marketing channel, Social Media requires an altogether subtler approach, in other words no Buy Me Now buttons or blatant promotional copy.
If your Social Media strategy is purely about marketing or sales then you need to rethink it NOW. Whilst it holds true that you can increase your sales figures from Social Media, this should not be your focus 100% of the time. As a general rule of thumb, only 5% to 10% of your status updates, Tweets, etc. should be selling.
Social Media is all about building relationships and growing trust, from answering questions to providing helpful information, to acting as a trusted resource and an industry authority. These are the activities which will grow your bottom line in the long run, albeit it in a slower fashion.
4. It’s Not About You!
Other business owners often comment to me that they don’t want to put what they had for dinner on Twitter. And my response to this is always the same – you wouldn’t walk up to somebody at a networking event and tell them what you had for dinner last night or what you watched on TV, so why do it online?! And there’s nothing more irksome than being on the receiving end either. We’ve all been stuck at an event or dinner party with the self-absorbed person who talks at not to you and only about themselves to boot.
To be liked online, you’ve got to be a good listener, genuinely interested in what others have to say, gracious about constructive criticism and not dominate the conversation. Ask questions and encourage participation and comments, engage (within reason) with everybody who posts on your wall and share great content of others in your industry, in fact anything that you think will resonate with others or be interest or use to them.
Put simply, the same etiquette you employ offline applies online – don’t do or say anything you wouldn’t in person and you will be fine.
5. Quality not Quantity
There will always be some new up and coming network threatening claiming to be the next Facebook or Twitter and unless Social Media IS your business, you will never be able to keep up with it, but guess what? Nor should you.
Doing Social Media well does not mean being anywhere and everywhere. Instead, it’s about choosing one or two of the most relevant and effective channels for reaching your customers and focusing on them.
It is better to have no Social Media presence at all (although highly unadvisable!) than a neglected account as this will reflect badly on your business and, rightly or wrongly, result in a perception. And let’s face it; online more than anywhere else, perception is everything.
Again, if you don’t have the time and resources to actively manage and participate on your Social Media channels, consider outsourcing your monthly activity to somebody with the time, the tools and the inclination.
I hope that you have found this article useful – please feel free to leave me comments or questions. In closing, it’s important to remember that the business principle of 50 years ago still ring as true today – doing business with those that know like and trust you will make you money, Social Media is merely the platform. Keep these principles in mind when planning your Social Media activity and you will be a guru before you know it!