Here are some of thoughts for small business owners who are looking at social media like the next gold rush that could turn their activity into a multi million dollar companies…
Website or blog?
If your website is going to be a “brochure on the web” with static content, then I say: Go for the blog.
A blog can look as professional as a website (can be customized, directed to a domain name…) and has a lot more benefits than only displaying your services contact details. Because constantly updated a blog will (should) help you appear on higher positions in organic search results. Posts about your products, activity and point of view about your industry are much more interesting and differentiating than a list of services. And finally, by giving your opinion you will build personality and familiarity for your company.
Get over it, blogging platforms are very user friendly. If you are looking at setting up an account I would recommend: Blogger/ wordpress/ posterous
How can I produce enough content?
My advice here is: consistency and authenticity.
Very simple, don’t launch into a social strategy if you don’t know what you want to say or if you can’t sustain it.
Define a perimeter for what you want to talk about and make time in your diary to produce and publish content.
It doesn’t have to be complicated: expand on your products, experience, partners; production ethics…
Get your partners (why not clients) on board to diversify your sources of content. Be interactive: mix your words with images and video (carry a digital camera or video recorder to capture interesting moments and you are done!).
Also think that you are trying to get a reaction from your readers (comments, pass along etc), so engage them, don’t go for your sales pitch, be snappy and to the point, and always, always, tell the truth!
Test various topics and publication times to benchmark what works best for you.
How do I get people to my blog?
That is where we get to the heart of leveraging social networking.
Once you have a good base of engaging content, set up your own social channels: depending on who your audience is, look at a Facebook page- Twitter account- LinkedIn profile or group, YouTube user channel, Flickr account.
To start growing your community you will need to reach out to your primary circle of connections to follow/like your pages. With quality and consumer centric content, your snowball effect should start right here! Remember that the primary reason for users to like a page is because they haveseen in their friend’s feed. On Facebook for example, a like or a comment from one user can be seen by an average of 130 of their friends!
Use technology to spread your content: Link your accounts to social dashboards such as tweetdeck or hootsuite. They are free and enable you to post content to several destinations, schedule publication, measure feedback, go mobile, get alerts… invest a bit of time to try them out; it will pay back in the long run!
It is also very important that you participate in the community: Identify who are the other players in your field and participate in their conversations. Comment on blogs and forums. You need to build your authority around the topics covered on your blog.
And finally to harvest the full benefits of blogging, you must build a strong linking policy! The more links pointing to and from your content the more visible your blog will be. It is therefore extremely important that you nurture your link building. Once again, leverage partners, suppliers, contributors, staff, friends…
This post is directly inspired by conversations with entrepreneurs leading “Le petit producteur”, “Cate’s cooking creations”, “Bags with a story”, “Mizuno Europe”… who all see a fantastic potential from social media for their business but question how to go about it. I hope my advice clarify some of your questions.
Get in touch for some more tips!
Inspiration credits to:
Bags with a Story: Hats down to Ariane, a self taught blogger, entrepreneur and aspiring bag maker
187com: Congrats to Elodie who is embracing the change that social media has brought to her occupation and services her clients way beyond PR expertise!
Le petit producteur: Inspiration award to Babeth, and her guts for turning a clever idea into a growing player in the French food retail industry
Cate’s cooking creation: Good luck to Cate who is building an online community to support her Thermomix sales