Many small businesses start out feeling very accomplished when they Imageset up a profile and start doing the social media thing: an occasional tweet about products and services, post photos of products and services, blog about products and services and so on. No one is reading, sharing or retweeting any of it. Facebook and Twitter are littered with profiles of small businesses that have zero interaction with anyone. They’ve created a social media wasteland.

The small business owner has little time and probably little interest in figuring out how to use social media and get people to interact with them in a meaningful way. Some would say it’s a full time job and it certainly can be, but there are ways to reign it in. Though social media plans are never one size fits all, there are a few things a small business owner can do and should do to make their social media presence worthwhile.  

First, You Blog

Set up a blog on your website and make it fun so people want to read it. Helpful hint: people are captivated by the rich, famous, infamous, talented, (or, not really talented but just famous for being a train-wreck on a reality show...), true life stories and so on. There is no shortage of material (and drama) there. For example, write about the latest celebrity news and sprinkle a few mentions of your products and services. Let’s say you’re in the business of window replacement and you want to promote a particular brand of window that you sell and install. Boring blog: This month, we have xxx brand on sale. It’s good for this climate. Fun blog: Have you seen the size of that house Tom Brady and his supermodel wife Giselle are building?! I hope they have xxx brand windows for that climate. A house in that climate needs... Get it? Blogs are great for building content on your site; search engines (Google!) love them and they can help improve your search rankings. If blogging isn’t your thing, hire a freelance writer or outsource to an SEO reseller that offers social media services. It’s an affordable investment in both social media and SEO.

Then, Tweet and Share Your Blog

Post the link to your blog on Twitter and Facebook. Give it an intro to entice people to click through to your website to read the full blog. Using the above example, you can intro the link with something like, How many windows do you think Tom and Giselle have in their fabulous new LA mansion? It’s freaking enormous!

Be A Good Friend

Social media is like a big party with rules of etiquette. If all you’re doing is posting your own blogs and information about yourself, no one wants to be your friend. Like pages of other local businesses and comment on their posts. Follow others on Twitter. Retweet, comment and share. Thank people when they do the same for you. 

Create a Little Controversy*

Engage with Your Critics 

When you put your business out there on social media, you open yourself up to criticism. A small business shouldn’t expect to have daily complaints to handle (if you do, you shouldn’t be on social media--it will destroy you). But you should be prepared for the occasional complaint and bad review and that doesn’t mean removing them. You can respond in a manner that shows you value your customers and want to do right by them. Of course if you’re dealing with someone that’s only trying to cause trouble (a competitor maybe) then of course shut them down!

Be Super Nice to Your Friends and Followers

You know better than anyone what will get your clients to engage with you on social media. Is it a discount? A freebie? Figure out what a referral is worth to you and be as generous as you can. Here’s a pretty extreme example: An orthodontist in my area offers this reward on his Facebook page: Current clients receive a $50 gift card each time you refer someone for a consult...even if the referred person doesn’t become a patient! And he runs a social media contest where clients are encouraged to post photos of their cars on which they’ve plastered a bumper sticker for the orthodontic practice. Those who post photos are entered into a drawing for a gift card or a very generous credit on their account. That bumper sticker is on literally hundreds of cars. If you’re hesitant to give generous rewards, calculate how much you’re spending for leads elsewhere. You may be able to up the ante on customer referral rewards. Word of mouth is a very powerful lead generator for small businesses.

If all else fails, you can pay people to friend you on Facebook. Wait! Don’t do that. People actually do pay for social media followers and friends. There are postings on freelance job sites with job descriptions like this one: Get 1,000 likes for my Facebook page. Having lots of Facebook likes is not a means to an end unless those people are actively engaging with you and helping to get the word out about your business. Maybe they’re thinking that there’s some SEO value to all of those likes, or will be someday? You really don’t have to be a social media fraud. *See, this is an example of creating controversy. People who pay for Facebook likes or are in the business of selling Facebook likes may have something to say about this!

Tweet or post something controversial on your Facebook page and...see what happens.