An Introduction to Social Media for Small Businesses

As a small business owner starting out in social media, you face both advantages and disadvantages. But if you’re going to “do” Facebook or Twitter, you want to make sure you do them right. Few things reflect more poorly on your brand than a mismanaged or abandoned social media presence. If you’re just starting to develop a social media strategy, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Size matters.

Your business is small. If you’re looking to major corporations for insight on how to do your social media, you’re looking at it from the wrong angle. For example, a brand like Starbucks can offer up a big flashy prize in a Facebook giveaway. You might look at this and feel pressured to offer a similar prize for your fans.

But you’re not Starbucks. Your fans know you’re not Starbucks. Nobody is expecting you to give away a tropical vacation or a Macbook. If you’re an ice cream shop, give away pints of ice cream. A technology consulting firm? An hour or two of your consulting services. Work with what you have.

It’s not all about you, you, you.

Your customers are on social media sites for a variety of reasons. Some use Facebook to stay in touch with relatives. Others follow journalists on Twitter to keep up with breaking news. But there’s one thing you’ll probably never hear a social media user say:

“I’m here for the marketing. Market at me.”

In other words, if social media is a place for friends, your overt marketing turns you into the loudmouth friend who tells the same story so many times that everyone else can recite it word for word. Don’t be that friend.

Just because it exists doesn’t mean you have to use it.

So everyone’s been talking about this Pinterest thing, and you’re not 100 percent sure what it is…but it exists, so you’re going to go ahead and register for it. That’s a good plan, right?

No.

Social media sites aren’t a “one size fits all” kind of thing. As a small business owner, your available resources to devote to social media may be especially limited. Bigger companies have the time and manpower to try out every new site that pops up. You may need to just stick with one or two sites to really target your approach (sorry Google+ users).