social media success for small business Why is it that brand giants like Coca Cola, Nike, Starbucks and most automotive companies seem to command an effortless, yet powerful, presence in the valuable vehicle that is social media? Click on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and even the up and comer, SlideShare, and in seconds, you’re graced with expertly crafted, outlet-appropriate material that clearly appeals to the precise audience for each social media platform. It’s intimidating for the small business owner, if not a bit panic-inducing. Who has the time? Who has the manpower? Coca Cola, Nike, Starbucks and most automotive companies – that’s who.

These massive, global entities employ hundreds, sometimes thousands of marketing professionals. Their teams are expansive and specialized, spanning functions like market research, analysis, communications, branding and more. Most companies have even created specialized marketing divisions focusing solely on social platforms. Also, these powerhouses have good reason for popping up everywhere. Their audiences are huge, diverse and perpetually being wooed by fierce competition. Conversely, your business, is you. If you’re lucky, you have an employee or two, or maybe you work with a contractor to help with day to day tactics. Even if your audience and client base is respectable, it likely doesn’t number in the millions. As useful and lucrative as your social media activities may have been thus far, your efforts probably have not catapulted your sales and visibility to a level that might rival Coke; and here’s why. You’re not Coca-Cola.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with thinking about and planning for resounding success. But every big dreaming entrepreneur must adopt the acute understanding that social media success for small business differs starkly from that of big business. Staffing constraints, messaging and product availability will dictate which social media platforms are right for you, and often, less is more.

First, make social media a part of your overall marketing plan for 2013. Decide which social sites your clients and potential clients frequent. How? Perform simple keyword searches within Twitter and Facebook, and discover who is chatting about your industry. Then, instead of making thin attempts to be everywhere, all at once, focus on enriching your visibility on the most important sites. Or, if you already have a presence on Facebook, for example, capitalize and expand upon the fans you’ve generated there. Don’t branch out to Google+ until you have the content and extra time to expand. This planning stage is also an excellent time to ask yourself:

• Who am I trying to reach and why?
• Should I be seeking new clients or improving my existing relationships?
• What are my competitors doing? Where are they?

Next, be sure you are using social media to drive traffic to your own site or services. Create a simple blog, if you don’t already have one, to build your product or service’s credibility. This will also give you a platform to show off your own expert capabilities, personality and to position yourself as a resourceful partner. Update your blog at least a few times per month and post links on your social media page(s). This creates another level of attraction for your growing fan base. Even if they may not have arbitrarily clicked on your web link, an exciting or relevant blog topic could just entice them to get one click closer to your business or e-commerce.

Finally, do not become overwhelmed by the burgeoning number of social media sites. This can lead to a frantic scramble to develop a page for each one. If you are a small, or even one-man operation, you simply won’t have the time or material to make valuable updates to every site on a regular, useful basis. The result is virtual crickets. In other words, you’ll inadvertently stop updating and sharing, and your fans will stop visiting and clicking through. Instead, dedicate yourself to your vision, whether it is establishing new relationships, driving loyalty or diversifying your core audience. Determine which social site will help you accomplish this. When you have a solid plan in place, make your presence on the right social sites work for your 2013 business goals. Save the social media glut for the heavy hitters that really need it, and those who can afford it.

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