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Social Media at Your Speed

by Ashlie Hannah

As essential as it is to success, marketing your business through social media can be a frustrating, time-consuming endeavor for many small business owners, especially those just starting out. Even if you’re adept at your personal use of social media, utilizing Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for business purposes is an entirely different animal.

But it’s not as daunting at it seems. By exercising restraint, resisting temptation and creating compelling content, you can get a handle on your social media outreach, increasing its effectiveness and impact.

The first step? Don’t assume you must have a presence on every social media platform. Instead, take a restrained approach, since not everyone is going to be your ideal customer or client, said Laurie Hurley, CEO and founder of The Social Networking Navigator, a social media marketing agency that provides services to individuals, entrepreneurs and small- to medium-sized businesses.

Rather than aiming far and wide and blasting out any old message, narrow it down, define your target audience and focus on what’s relevant to them, said Hurley. This knowledge will help you determine what social media they’re spending their time on, and honing your outreach and your communication. So think—where would you go if you were your customer and what would be important to you?

“For example, a retail store will probably have followers who live on Pinterest and Instagram and rarely look at LinkedIn,” Hurley explained. “So that store should have a huge presence there, mostly because of the visual aspects of those two mediums.” For other businesses, such as startups looking for strategic partners or freelancers, LinkedIn will likely make more sense, she added.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, resist the temptation to use social media as a sales tool, cautioned Hurley. “Social media is meant to be social, to educate, inform and entertain. Start a conversation, engage your audience, but don’t sell.”

Instead, Hurley suggests that all social media efforts should lead back to your website. “This is usually the sales hub, where the landing pages are, the details of product and service offerings and the place where customers will buy.”

Drawing in your audience and hooking them through compelling content that encourages participation and exploration is the strategy to pursue. Some approaches that might work for your small business include:

  • Asking for opinions, taking a poll, or conducting a survey.
  • Posting images and giving your audience the opportunity to caption them.
  • Posting messages that reflect the personality and brand of your company.
  • Introducing your employees by providing a bit of information about them, so visitors feel a sense of connection.
  • Celebrating events important to your business, such as an anniversary or the launch of a new product. Offer social media visitors something special in honor of the occasion.
  • Calling attention to any community activities or special events your business participates in. This gives folks a sense of your company’s values.

“Having the mindset that the more you give online, the more attractive you will become, is a good place to begin,” noted Hurley. “It’s not all about you; it’s about them, the audience. Solve their problems and predicaments. Actively listen and offer the best freebies you can. Being focused on serving others will result in people coming back for more and engaging with the brand, not to mention being loyal and buying when the time is right.”

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