Twitter. Facebook. Pinterest. YouTube. Tout. There are so many amazing ways to communicate with consumers on social media. Engaging potential customers via social media channels could easily take up the majority of your day. And if you don't have time for it, it's a safe bet that most small-business owners don't have that kind of time or money to pay someone to manage it for them.
Take heart, fellow entrepreneurs. Although the task looks daunting, becoming a social media rock star is possible if you approach it strategically. To start you on your way, I had an info-packed chat with Chicago digital marketing consultant Cle Andrea Hayden, who has managed social media for companies like TravelZoo and Ubid.
What are some of the common mistakes small businesses make?
Cle Andrea Hayden: Many small businesses want to be on every social outlet available. It’s best to pick one or two social media sites/outlets to communicate with your audience -- then do it well.
The other common mistake is selling more than engaging and communicating. Nothing is more irritating than to go to a Twitter timeline or Facebook fan page and see nothing but “20 percent off today” or “purchase now and get free shipping.” Yes, selling products and services is important, however social media provides an opportunity for you to create brand ambassadors who will increase sales organically via word of mouth, build relationships with potential customers and better understand current customers. Talk to, engage with, learn from your clients... then include a promotion or two.
Why is it important to be strategic?
Cle Andrea Hayden: Just as you would put together a plan to execute the launch of a new product, you need a plan to execute your social media efforts. Social media should be a component of your marketing mix and carry just as much weight and importance as devising a robust advertising campaign. Full integration is key; each marketing channel you use -- email, display, social -- should work together to provide the desired results.
What are easy things to do to engage on social media?
Cle Andrea Hayden: Create a cool sweepstakes or contest; people love to win interesting prizes. The right kind of sweepstakes could lead to great viral activity and build your community base. Another idea would be to choose a theme or topic to discuss on a specific day of the week. The topic you choose should be something specific to your brand and interesting to your community.
For example, if you were a sustainable handbag company, pick a day out of the week to talk about materials used to create your product. Develop good photo content. Depending on the social media platform you are using, a photo could inspire hundreds of “likes.” Don’t forget to interact with your current online community: ask questions, respond to concerns and continue the conversation. Whatever you decide to do, make it fun and creative.
What social media resources would you recommend?
Cle Andrea Hayden: I would suggest picking up “The Social Media Bible” by Lon Sofko & David Brake or “Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Engaging in Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media” by Liana Evans.
Is this something any entrepreneur can do themselves?
Cle Andrea Hayden: Being strategic & creative is something most entrepreneurs are. If you are willing to commit an hour or so a day on social media marketing, you could be very successful. However, I know most entrepreneurs are wearing multiple hats and adding something else to the “to-do” list could be overwhelming, so it may be a good idea to seek out someone who could help.
Building communities via social media takes time, so be patient and consistent. It is also about developing relationships; be authentic and trustworthy when engaging with your base. Don’t be afraid to test things out. If there is something that you would like to try with your social media, do it. If you think it’s interesting, your community base may as well.
Jetta Bates-Vasilatos is founder of Twist Communications and a life stylist with 10+ years of award-winning consumer engagement/strategic planning experience for luxury and global brands like BMW and Coca-Cola. She also serves as an on-air correspondent and writer with a focus on luxury and experiential tourism, lifestyle, sustainability, and personal finance (how to be chic yet savvy). Jetta has appeared on stations such as WCIU-TV, KBS-TV(Korea), ABC-7, CLTV and KBC-TV (Kenya), writes for national print publications such as Essence, Recommend, Ebony and HomeStyle Design and is the host of the Jettasetting segment on WVON radio.