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Social media has taken the world of marketing by storm, and many small businesses have been left scratching their heads, not quite sure of how to take advantage of what this new medium has to offer them. If you find your company in such a position, there is no need to fret., because transitioning your marketing efforts might be easier than you think! That being said, there are a few ideas you should keep in mind before diving into the deep end.

Don’t Advertise Products, Boost Your Brand

Many businesses who are new to the social media world will often make the mistake of solely advertising or promoting their products and services via social channels. While it’s acceptable to advertise every once in a while, those who are following your brand want to see more than what you have to offer. Engagement is a huge deal nowadays, and if your brand’s social media resembles anything like nails on a chalkboard, you’ll likely end up losing followers faster than you can gain them.

The idea behind social media is simple: be social. Relate to your audience as much as possible. Post engaging images, videos, and gifs to grab your followers’ attention. Do your research online and talk about trending topics. There are hundreds of ways to engage with your audience!

While ROI is certainly an important factor to consider when evaluating your brand’s social media efforts, only focusing on selling products and services through these types of channels could be a death sentence for small businesses. Instead, focus on selling the concept of your company and make every attempt to be as social as possible with your fans and supporters. If you build a community of supportive followers, they will likely choose your brand based on brand loyalty alone. This is where the advantages of social media really come into play.

Pick the Right Platform

Not all platforms are created equal. Depending on where your audience is most likely to be found and what type of content you want to share in order to build an audience, you might want to consider putting more effort into your social media strategy on specific sites:

Twitter

●    Focuses heavily on short text messages (140 characters max)

●    Uses hashtags to organize content

●    Includes video and image options

●    Frequently used to promote links

●    Call-to-action very important within community

●    Often used to communicate with companies

Although other sites might be one-stop-shops for many perusers of the internet, Twitter serves a very important purpose for other reasons. Though this platform does offer image and video features, they are not utilized as much as they would on other sites, like Facebook. For quick, real-time updates, Twitter is ideal for real-time marketing, news, and events.

Twitter Tip: Because business Twitter pages are easily accessible to the site’s users, it’s important to note that many customers often use Twitter as a means of getting into contact with other businesses if they are experiencing issues or have comments. The quicker you are able to respond, the better!

Facebook

●    Typically used for catching up with friends/family

●    Strong focus on presentation of news/articles

●    Uses hashtag in much the same way as Twitter

●    Posts can link to other business pages within text

●    Includes group creation to help build fan base

●    Paid ads blend in seamlessly with other content

As one of the top social media sites on the web, Facebook is essentially the home page for millions of users. Unlike other sites, Facebook’s personal users (aka: your audience), enjoy utilizing this site to stay up-to-date with their friends and family.

Because there is little room for free advertising, a brand shouldn’t be taking the same approach with Facebook as they would with Twitter. When it comes to getting your content seen on this channel, you need to make sure that it’s shareable– content that Facebook users would want to share with their friends and family as well.

Facebook can be effectively used for a B2B audience as well. Like boosting a personal brand on Facebook, content will play a very important role in your marketing strategy. While we would love to be generating leads all the time, aiming for posts that create buzz, customer satisfaction, and engagement is key to continuing and expanding lead generation.

Google Plus

●    All Pages have a Page Rank on Google

●    Circles allow you to create devoted groups

●    Frequently used for live Google Hangouts

●    Similar to Facebook, used to share text/images/videos

●    Strong community building opportunities

●    Wide selection of tools connected to Google services

Google Plus has proven to be a very valuable social media tool over the past few years. In addition to the many services that you can make use of as a member, actively sharing and being a part of the community will get you noticed. One of the most incredible tools available via the social site is Google Hangouts, which allows you to start a live video chat with people in your circle and groups. Some companies have used this feature as a means to reach out directly to their customer base and address their every concern. Google Plus has also proven to be excellent for B2B marketing.

There are many more social media sites out there, but if you’re trying to figure out where to start, these are the three you need to consider above all others. If you’re looking to connect with your customers, you may want to focus on the capabilities offered through Google Plus and Twitter. If you want to build communities and be a part of the everyday life of your customer, a website like Facebook might be just what you’re looking for.

No matter which site you choose to focus on, remember to focus on your audience first and make them a priority over monetary gain. The end game here should not be to make direct sales, but rather to create long time customers who will keep coming back for more because they know they can trust you. Keep that in mind and you are sure to see success.

If you have experience with these and other social sites let us know which ones work for you.

About the Author:  Megan M. Ritter is an entrepreneur, gaming enthusiast, and online journalist from California. With a background in social media marketing, she enjoys researching, implementing, and sharing her strategies in her writing. Follow her on Twitter to find more of her writing.