Gone are the days when having a social media presence for your business was something that you could get away with thinking about setting up one day in the future.
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you run, whether it’s a small shop or a business with thousands of employees; if you can’t be found on social media, you are missing out on a valuable opportunity.
How big of a role does social media play in your life? How long are you awake in the morning before you check your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account? Do you look on social media when you are deciding on a new restaurant to visit for the first time, a new school for your children, or a resort for your next vacation?
The fact of the matter is that most people will check out a business on social media if they are using that business for the first time. This means that if the business does not have a social media presence, there is a good chance that this potential customer will look elsewhere for a business that does.
If you are still uncertain about the benefits of social media for your business, let’s take a closer look at how it can help your enterprise grow.
Grab attention and build awareness
As with so many things in life, it is very easy to become overwhelmed by the task ahead. It is understandable for a business to want everything to be perfect before they start to set up a social media presence for their business. It is natural to want to understand all of the latest buzzwords and different marketing techniques that are popular at the moment. However, it may surprise you to know that the best thing that you can do is to simply get started.
For example, set up a Twitter account. Design a quick header using the tutorials on the free version of Canva, follow a few people and businesses with a larger following than you, and spend a few minutes each day tweeting. That’s all it takes to be on your way.
It doesn’t have to be Twitter; it could be Instagram or Facebook. The important thing to remember is to do it consistently and you will already be way ahead of your competitors who are still thinking about it.
Be nice – it really does make a difference
As your social media presence becomes more established, you will find that people will interact with you. It may be to ask questions about your business, to give you feedback, or simply to chat. As long as you are providing a first-class service to your customers, people are generally fair and easy to get along with. Occasionally, however, a comment might be left on your Facebook page that you think is unfair.
Of course, it might not truly be unjustified in hindsight; it could be that you are simply having a bad day. Whether the comment is needlessly harsh or not, the last thing you want to do is to leave a sarcastic reply or get into an argument with a customer.
Acting in this way can create a very negative impression of your business. Don’t forget that this is the internet; even if you delete your comments, there is always the chance that someone may have taken a screenshot of your angry outburst and will not hesitate to leave it on a review site for the world to see.
If you ever receive a comment that upsets you, walk away for five minutes and take a deep breath. Then, thank the person for their comment and try to respond in a positive way. It is also important to take the time to reply to any comments you receive if someone is taking the time to leave them.
For example, if you own a restaurant and someone leaves a comment on your Facebook account to say that they had a lovely meal, thank them and tell them that you are pleased that they enjoyed themselves and that you look forward to seeing them again.
You may see comments being left by clients and not replied to if you observe social media accounts of other businesses. Just as you would likely consider it to be rude if you said something to a person in your workplace and they ignored you, it will be received the same way if you don’t reply to someone on social media.
Show your authority
Depending on your business, don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet and show your authority. Visitors to your social media sites will more than likely be looking for reassurance and advice from someone who knows exactly what they are talking about. If you are able to be seen as an authoritative figure, there is an excellent chance that people will be more likely to see what else you have to offer which will include paid options.
The way that social media works is that if you hide your light under a bushel, you won’t get seen as visitors will look for someone else who can reassure them if you can’t.
If a university talks about the benefits of an online MBA and has testimonials from happy customers they could use to support their offering, they should ask those happy customers for permission to post the testimonials on their social media channels.
If you can provide proof of the benefits of any service that you are offering, don’t be afraid to tell everyone about it. If you are confident in your business and the service it provides, it is always a good idea to ask your social media followers to give feedback on the service that they have received.
As with any kind of business, positive feedback goes a very long way in persuading other people to try you out, and that can often be all it takes for your social media accounts to take off with positive feedback and reviews.
Be prepared to help
A common misconception among people who own a business is that they don’t want to give away their “secrets” and that is especially true when it comes to social media.
Again, it depends on the nature of your business, but let’s give an example of a business that offers a course on showing business owners how to use search engine optimization (SEO) methods so that their website ranks highly in the search engines.
This business could either share fluff on their social media channels, which would be of no use to anyone, or they could share helpful advice that people could actually put to good use.
Which method do you think would result in them getting more followers, having more posts liked, and gaining the interest of potential customers in what else they have to offer? After all, if they are giving great information away for free, many would imagine that their paid content must be even more valuable.
In an example of working this way that was seen recently on Twitter, a woman who owns a business buying and selling websites started a Twitter account in which she shares some excellent tips on how she operates her business. She provides links to the people she follows on YouTube and writes lots of threads. Any time someone leaves a comment, she always replies.
In three months, she has built up a following of 12,000 and this is now increasing by hundreds per day. People who follow her and appreciate her insight will be eager to find out if she has a paid course of any kind. Once again, if she is giving away this kind of information for free, what must her paid content be like?
The great thing about this approach is that she is probably spending no more than 30 minutes per day posting on her Twitter account, and those 30 minutes could well turn out to be extremely lucrative.
Patience is the key
It can be a little frustrating if you are at the beginning of your social media journey and you are enviously looking at accounts with thousands of followers and feel that you are basically talking to yourself.
Unless you have the time or resources to throw the kitchen sink at building up your social media presence, it can be slow in the beginning. At this stage, it may be tempting to think that it is just not worth the effort. However, thinking in this way is a big mistake because as we have already explained, the benefits of having a social media presence for your business can pay massive dividends.
If you are short on time but have the funds available to grow your social media presence at a faster rate, there is always the option of purchasing tools to make the job easier or even outsourcing the job to a social media agency.
A quick Google search will reveal the tools that are available, Tweethunter and Hootsuite are two examples, but it is strongly advisable that you use a tool that offers a free trial period so you can test its capabilities before you spend any money. Tweethunter is a particularly useful tool that can schedule your Tweets to be posted automatically, allowing you to get on with other aspects of your business.
If you decide to go down the route of outsourcing the work to a social media agency, the key is to get a recommendation from someone that you know and trust. If you don’t know anyone who can provide a suggestion, check out testimonials of the agencies you are considering to ensure that they are reputable. Do not sign up for a long period of time; one month is more than enough time to decide if this is a company that you would like to do business with.
You should also see an increase in followers during that month, which will give you a good indication of the number of followers that you will have in 3 months, 6 months or even a year.
It is better to be safe than sorry
There is no getting away from the fact that having a social media presence can work wonders for your business, no matter what kind of business it is. However, it is important that you remember that you are working on a third-party platform that could be taken away from you at any time.
Let’s say you have a Facebook following of a few thousand people that continues to build up nicely, but you try to sign into your account one morning and an error message keeps appearing. It doesn’t take long to realize that your account has been suspended. After making a few inquiries, you are informed that the account has been closed, leaving your followers confused and wondering what on earth is happening.
Unfortunately, when you use social media, you are at the mercy of the platform, and most of them can close your account without warning. This means that you should make every effort to transfer your followers to your own platform so you will be able to continue to offer them helpful advice as well as the opportunity to purchase whatever you have to sell.
You should provide a link to your website, preferably to a landing page where visitors will have the option to leave their email address so they can sign up to receive more information from you. The software programs that collect these email addresses for you and comply with anti-spam regulations are called autoresponders, and many of them offer free accounts to those with lower volumes of subscribers.
A Google search will reveal the top software providers, but offerings such as Active Campaign, Aweber and Mailchimp can all provide you with an excellent service and either a free trial or a free service when you are starting out.
An incentive will usually have to be offered in return for someone giving you their email address. This could come in the form of a discount coupon if you operate a service-based business or a restaurant; if your business is based around an educational course, a short educational report could be offered.
To give you an idea of how this would work, let’s take a look at Twitter as an example. At the top of Twitter’s home page, you will see that there is the option to place a header that makes the Twitter account look more professional while telling visitors what the account is all about.
In the profile section of the account, there is also the option to include a link. This could be the URL of your website or a landing page that offers visitors an incentive for sharing their email address with you.
We have already discussed the types of incentive that could be used. If you set up a lead magnet on your landing page using a site like Gumroad, you will see that full instructions are provided on how to set everything up with Twitter.
There is the added advantage with Gumroad that a third-party email software provider is not required. The Gumroad version is not as advanced as options such as Aweber or Active Campaign, but it is more than adequate for someone who is just starting out.
It should be noted that if you run your social media accounts in an appropriate way and avoid getting involved in insults or conspiracy theories, the chances of your accounts being suspended or even closed down are remote. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
The various forms of social media are growing more popular with every passing day, and there will likely be even more platforms introduced over the coming months and years. The fact of the matter is that if you don’t embrace social media and the massive benefits that it can offer to any business, your competitors who do so will have a substantial competitive edge over you.
Even if your business mostly targets people of a certain age group that you believe is not heavily involved in social media, you cannot afford to miss this important way of growing your reach. It is not unusual to see people who are over 80 years old checking in to see what is going on, talking to family and friends and eagerly looking at the latest pictures on Facebook and Instagram that have been posted by their grandchildren.
Although it may be challenging for some businesses to set up a social media presence without spending any money, it is difficult to think of any other medium that offers such lucrative opportunities without charging businesses a lot of money in the process.
As a business owner, the choice is ultimately yours, but for every day that you don’t have a social media presence, you are missing out on an incredible chance to reach new audiences and boost your brand recognition.