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3 Free Ways to Promote Your Small Business With Social media

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Small businesses employ half the work force in the United States (www.sba.gov).  They are also becoming more and more active online.  So much so that ICANN, the non-profit group tasked with maintaining the internet address system will soon determine if companies and organizations can expand the internet address system further through the use of creating unique domain suffixes.  This means that small businesses shut out of sites that bear the same name will have a chance to own their site followed by a suffix like “.nyc” or “.music”. 

 See more regarding the new domain extensions here: The Sun Rises on New Domains.

 The Internet represents a chance to level the playing field for many small businesses, perhaps no way more than through the use of social media.  Social media may be, in fact, made for small businesses, because success depends upon high levels of customer service, something that all successful small business owners excel at.  The following are a few tips on how small business owners can apply that same customer service excellence to online portals and expand their user-base infinitely. 

Get a handle on Twitter…literally and figuratively

A terrific resource for helping you conquer Twitter is the book “Thank You Economy” by small businessman turned social media mastermind Gary Vaynerchuk.  In a nutshell, Vaynerchuk advises to approach Twitter by engaging in the conversation to promote your expertise in your field of business.  The easiest way to think of Twitter is as a platform in which to become a thought leader and to build your brand around that thought leadership.  For businesses, instead of worrying what you want to say on Twitter, focus on what other people are saying. 

There are apps available (Tweetdeck) that allow you to search Twitter by geographic location and by Tweet topics.  As a local business you can search for people in your immediate area discussing topics that touch on your focus of business (the owner of an Italian restaurant may search for the word “recipe” or “cooking” or “food” and answer people’s questions or comment on their observations). 

But remember, salesmanship on Twitter is not about closing the deal but about building relationships. 

**I also recently wrote a blog piece about my own “AHA” moment with Twitter – when it all clicked and I finally understood how to use it to promote our business.  See blog entry here:  TWITTER moment

Think of your Facebook page as your virtual store window

Facebook allows vendors to interact with customers but this presents another challenge – what information are my followers looking for? Facebook is inherently a personal space, infringe too much on clients’ time with sales tactics and they will quickly “unlike” your page. 

When posting to Facebook think about your page as though it was a display window.  What do you want customers to know about your services/merchandise?  What do you want them to learn about what you have to offer?  What do you want them to think about when they think about your business? 

Think in terms of current events.  If you are an accessories vendor, and you have recently seen a Hollywood starlet pictured wearing a pair of earrings almost identical to the ones you are currently featuring, consider posting a link to that photo and then a photo of the earrings on your store, on display.  Make sure you also post it in a way that also links to that celebrity’s Facebook page – because many Fan pages feed any mention of that person onto their news feed – and then out to all of their followers.

Also look to engage your customers.  Add a poll to a few celebrities with similar style earrings and have followers vote on “who wore it best”. 

Facebook also teamed up with a firm recently and released a white paper on social search engine optimization, which is full of helpful hints on how to best utilize the social networking platform for your business goals.   To read that paper see: Source

Leverage hyper local sites to your advantage

There are so many sites focused on “local” that while the Internet is global, there are now many more ways that you can track and even control your reputation amongst your local client base.

YELP, GOOGLE, FourSquare, Patch, etc. all may be listing your business.  These sites also allow people to review your business and therefore allow you to keep tabs on what people are saying.  This gives you much greater control over your reputation than in the past.  

While many business owners may live in fear of a bad review, for the first time these review sites allow you to react to unsatisfied customers and to right any perceived wrong that they have.  Whereas in the past an unsatisfied customer may have been bad mouthing you verbally and there was be very little you could do to control that, or react to it, for the first time allow businesses the opportunity to change how a person might feel about your business. The Internet now allows you to take a bad experience and turn it into a good one.

Perform an Internet search to see where your business is listed and schedule at least one time each week to go in and read what your customers are saying about you.   Interact with them.  Try and change their mind through productive conversation.  If someone had a bad experience at your store, you might want to reach out to them and offer them a small discount to return.  You might ask them for more details – so that you can improve whatever happened that turned them off. 

Just remember to keep all interactions positive and productive.  It isn’t the mistakes that you make, but how you fix them and what you learn from them that people remember going forward.

Filed under Small business social media helpful hints