From Foursquare to Twitter to Pinterest, social media continues to evolve and thrive—and completely mystify many small business owners. Which media channel should you use? When should you post? And, uh, what’s the point?
There are tons of tough questions surrounding social media use. Last January, at the 2015 SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Snow Show in Denver, CO, I was fortunate to grab a chair at several social media seminars led by experts in the field. Here are some social media tips for small businesses that I picked up at the Show as well as through my own experience.
1. Be a part of a conversation
Social media is a virtual platform, but the conversation is real. Rather than viewing social media as a checklist or errand, regard social media as an essential part of building a community that supports your brand’s mission (and yes, sales). Initiate discussions about the issues that you and your consumers care about. Be a leader in thoughtful conversation, important debate and inspirational messaging. You’ll gain followers, and consumers.
2. Integrate social media channels
No matter how many social media platforms you choose to utilize, integrate your profiles. What does integrate actually mean? Firstly, you want your message and cause to be the same throughout each post on each channel. Secondly, when you share a message, publish the message on all of your social media platforms. Each social media post can be slightly unique or vary, but the central goal should be to create a consistent brand message and identity while building an online community, which translates into a real community and supporters of your business
3. Use #hashtags
A hashtag is an embedded, clickable link that will funnel a viewer to a specific topic of conversation. Clicking a hashtag on a social media post, such as twitter or Instagram, takes you to all of the posts that share that particular hashtag. It’s a method of categorizing, and connecting, virtual conversations.
Why is this helpful for a small business owner? Hashtags will increase the likelihood of even more folks stumbling upon your products and brand. Plus, hashtags are creative, fun and enhance the user experience. Beyond hashtags, implementing other micro-interactions, such as videos that play, also keeps the audience engaged and reflects brand ingenuity.
4. Grow your circle
The more you interact on social media, the easier it is to grow your following. But how do you get started? Follow profile users that share similar interests or the same mission as your business. Then, view and follow their followers. The more you interact via “likes” and “following,” the more others will interact and follow you, too. The growth can be exponential.
5. Interact consistently
It’s okay if you don’t post everyday. It’s most important that you post consistently, because it helps to establish (and improve) a relationship with your audience while building brand trust. If you post a message once a week, every Thursday, your audience will grow to appreciate and expect that post. Don’t let them down. Take advantage of the opportunity to maintain their attention and support.
6. Share incentives + add value
You can use social media channels to share about products or services, but don’t let the dialogue become a total ad campaign. Add value to your social media posts with variance. For example, if you share a post about a product one day, then share an interesting article that’s related to manufacturing the next day. Or, an entertaining story about the service or product. Build your messaging around a larger purpose, not just the sale. To incentivize sales or reviews, you can offer discounts or special events.
7. Visual appeal
Yes, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Sign up for image-based social media channels like Pinterest and Instagram, which are easy-to-use and visually appealing. Have fun while telling your brand story on the go.
Remember, social media is like business: the more value you add, the more value there will be on your return. Follow these tips, and enjoy the conversation.
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Morgan Tilton is a contributor to the Connectivity blog. For more social media for small business tips, check out Morgan’s stories from the 2015 Snow Show seminars: Launch a Cause, Not Just a Product and Tips to Staying Afloat with Social Media.