Launching a small business in 2013 means that social media is going to be at least a small piece of the puzzle and a determinant of your success. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to be a Facebook or Twitter marketing expert. What it does mean is that you have to accept it as a necessary component of your business launch and understand the basics, as they relates to leveraging those accounts for the visibility and reach of your business.
Although you shouldn’t become overly caught up in it, you shouldn’t completely ignore it either. For a small business to craft a healthy relationship with social media, you need to know where to focus your energy, because let’s face the facts: you don’t have a great deal of time to be spending on Facebook.
Avoiding the trap of wasted time is a matter of recognizing where and why social media can be helpful to you.
Here are the simple answers:
1. In the early stages, because of low overhead
Yes, social media is almost always free (unless you pay for an advertising campaign), so that means you should use it to bolster your business launch long before opening day.
This is where things like a Facebook fan page and a Pinterest board become valuable to you. In the early stages of your business, they allow you to post products, services, news items and other things related to your business without the doors even being open. This, in turn, generates an initial awareness and interest in your project, and makes it more likely that you’ll have at least a modest following on opening day.
2. When you’re connecting with potential clients, because of commonalities
Social media is hands-down the best way to find potential customers and clients because of the keen ability it has to connect people with the same interests.
In fact, it’s the most honest and pure form of targeted advertising. If you can see that someone is interested in what your business sells or provides, reach out to them via social media and just make them aware of what your business is all about. Be sure to not come off as a sales pitch, but treat it as an opportunity to network with someone, just like you would anybody who shares a common interest with you.
3. When informing a loyal following, because they’ve been there from the start
If you’re on board with step one, you’ll likely have a loyal following via your social media accounts by the time your business launches. Once that happens, you should make an effort to maintain a relationship with that following, specifically as your business grows. Keep them informed and updated on what you believe will matter most to them.
While you should be careful not to spam your loyal audience, you don’t want them to feel like you’re silent or out of the picture. It’s a balancing act, but when done right it can be effective in keeping customers and clients interested.
4. When you know not to overdo it, because it won’t help
When you’re dealing with any kind of topic related to your business and social media, you always want to be careful not to overdo it. If at all possible, you should approach social media from the mindset that you’re offering something of value, or even giving back to those who have been enthusiastic enough to support you.
Don’t ruin that trust by spamming them or updating your business’s Facebook status with dollar signs in your eyes. Social media is a place for relational connections and for back-and-forth interaction to take place. If that’s not what you’re using it for, then you’re not helping your business.
5. Trust word-of-mouth
When it’s all said and done, social media is a tool in your hand, but it can’t guarantee a successful business launch anymore than a wrench can guarantee a car will be in good working order. Make sure that the product or service you’re offering will generate leads on its own merit, and trust word-of-mouth to get people in the door.
Social media can help, but it can never replace human-to-human interaction.
Both before and after your business launch, social media will afford you the opportunity to be a more effective and targeted marketer, without any real cost to you outside of your time. Be sure to take advantage of these tools, along with a great website service, while at the same time keeping them in perspective and in their proper context.
It’s not a silver bullet, and therefore shouldn’t take up a high percentage of your energy. Instead, give it time in the right situations and for the right reasons, when returns will be at their highest.