Do you own a small business? How long have you been using social media as a marketing tool and what have you learned?
In a little over a months time I will have owned my business for just about three years. When I began using social media some thirty six months ago, I had no real marketing background experience, and I certainly had never written a blog post, interacted in a forum, or sent a Tweet.
My social media evolution began with a simple foray into blogging as a way to try and rank well for some keywords related to my business. From there I expanded to niche forums, review sites, FLICKR, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
Man! Just trying to keep up can be intimidating and overwhelming.
However, my number one goal has always been to create a distributed social media footprint with all of my online marketing activities pointing back towards my small business website.
After almost three years of working hard, learning continuously, making lots of mistakes, and monitoring successes, below are thirty valuable social media marketing lessons that I have learned through my experience. I hope they help you:
1. Location is dead. We have now fully entered into the Interaction Economy.
2. It does not pay to engage in ‘pissing contests’ on business review sites or in forums.
3. When used properly, a small video camera like a Flip and a standard digital camera (or just an iPhone), can be like having your own marketing department.
4. Instead of trying to be everywhere in the social media space, determine what online activities work best for your business and focus your attention there.
5. Search Engine Optimization(SEO) is important but it needs to be combined with a well distributed plan for Search Engine Visibility (SEV).
6. Conceptualizing and then defining your social media goals can help to keep you on track.
7. Social networking sites can be a tremendous time suck. Use a site like Egg Timer to help limit the time you spend interacting online.
8. Get to know the online influencers in your small business niche, as well as, the social media pros.
9. There is gold to be mined with Twitter Search if you are willing to use it to listen, engage, and provide value.
10. Uploading well titled and tagged videos to YouTube and photos to FLICKR can drastically improve your Search Engine Visibility.
11. Consistent small business blogging pays the greatest returns.
12. Technology changes daily. Read often.
13. You should not fear customer review social sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. Rather, you should embrace them.
14. Helping people online when they least expect it can bring you great rewards.
15. Even on your worst day, you have to remember that every interaction counts.
16. Spamming and jamming your business down the throats of potential customers only drives business away.
17. Not everyone is going to like you, so be prepared to get flamed and read negative reviews.
18. Turn negative reviews into a positive by using them to help better define who your ideal customer is.
19. Your backstory matters and weaving it into your online business persona is important.
20. Social media is a lot like exercise. Doing a little bit consistently everyday will produce better results than one eight hour marathon session per month.
21. The people who criticize you the most for using social media to promote your small business are the one’s who are most afraid of embracing change.
22. One of the easiest ways for small business owners to measure social media ROI is to ask every customer how they heard about your business.
23. When starting your social media marketing efforts for your small business you will get frustrated. Try to keep a long term outlook like six months to a year.
24. Don’t discount the power of niche forums that are related to your small business.
25. Use Google Alerts to see who’s talking specifically about your business and anything related to your business.
26. If you are using social media as a customer service tool, when something goes wrong (and it always does!), being sincere, humble, and apologetic will be greatly appreciated by your future potential customers.
27. Utilizing free email lists like Help A Reporter Out (HARO) can help you find valuable public relations and news opportunities for your business.
28. Social media in the short term does not work. You must be in it for the long term and be persistent, consistent, and committed.
29. Anyone who owns a small business can ‘do’ social media, but NOT everyone ‘does’ it. (And that is your true competitive advantage.)
30. If you have a spare hour or two everyday to aimlessly surf the net, or sit and watch T.V., then you have more than enough time to commit to using social media for your small business.
How long have you been using social media for your small business? What have you found works best?
Mark Hayward hates the snow and cold! Luckily, he owns a small business in the Caribbean. Mark is passionate about helping other small business owners avoid the online mistakes he has made. You can follow Mark on Twitter @mark_hayward and you can subscribe to his RSS Feed for weekly small business social media marketing tips.
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