For all businesses, and particularly SMEs with restricted budgets, social media can be a valuable and very cost-effective method of marketing communications. That's if you know how to use it.
It's about involvement and brand-building, getting your name out there rather than using it as a direct sales tool. Compare it to being at a party. The person who stands there all evening talking about ME! ME! ME! will end up alone as everyone will slowly get bored and wander off. The person who asks questions, responds, gets involved and has interesting things to say will attract the bigger crowd. That's not to say you can't shout about how great you are now and again of course!
To make the most of this valuable marketing tool, make sure you've worked out your social media strategy. This isn't as difficult as it sounds. All you need to do is ask yourself some questions:
1. Why am I using social media?
Is it for website traffic? Conversions? Brand awareness? Creating a brand identity? Creating positive brand association? Communication and interaction with key audiences? Maybe it's a few of these.
2. Whose attention am I trying to get?
Okay, so you want to market that new line of products, for example. You still need to know your target audience for that product.
3. Which platforms do I want to use?
If you have enough time and resources to handle multiple social networking sites, that's great. If not, it's important to focus on one or two, or you could spread yourself too thin and end up going days or even weeks without activity.
4. Who's going to manage my page?
Would your social networking activity fall under a current employee's responsibilities, or do you need to bring in new talent? Will you do it yourself? Outsource to a professional? If you ever find yourself without the staffing resources to manage your page, don't stick your head in the sand, find the time to do it yourself or pay someone else to do it.
5. What's going to be the personality of my page?
Keep an eye on the 'voice' of your social networking site. People buy from other people, not from other companies so it may be useful to pick a person (yourself?) to represent your business.
Take some time to answer the questions above and you should have a clearer idea of where you want to go.
HOW DO I GET THERE?
If you're an SME or sole trader, you might have limited time to devote to your social media. That's fine. You can use tools like Buffer or HootSuite to schedule your posts.
You should also try to draw up a schedule – otherwise you'll either (1) never use your social media accounts, or (2) find yourself wasting time clicking endlessly from one link to the next...
There are a multitude of social media platforms out there. Don't think that you should be using them all. Stick to one or two that you think will be most suitable for your product or service, and devote your time to making sure they are kept up to date. Better to have one useful, well-maintained account than five half-used or dormant ones - it could reflect badly on your business.