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Op-Ed: 5 social media tips for small business

The efficacy of social media for SMBs is tough to nail down because ROI might not be apparent and social shares, likes and links do not always tie to more dollars in your bottom line. What kills most small biz owners when it comes to social media is the lack of a strategic approach. This is further complicated by social media for business being a moving target. But even as trends shift, these five tips will provide a solid base for your SMB’s approach to social media.

#1 Start small then build
Think about how you started your small business. Was it in your garage? Basement? Or on your laptop in a comfy chair at Starbucks? You started small then built on your successes. This core logic holds true for social media. Just as you wouldn’t try and open five locations at once when you’re just starting out, you shouldn’t try and flood every social media channel. The three core sites to start with are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Once you’re established and active on these channels, you can consider YouTube, Instagram or Pinterest, but don’t spread yourself too thin.

#2 Consistency is key
Establishing a presence is easy enough. You can set up any account within minutes, but that’s not enough. Social media is not a field of dreams. Building it doesn’t mean they will come. What draws eyes on your channel are regular and interesting posts. One post a day for Twitter and Facebook should be a minimum goal. On LinkedIn, post at least once weekly. You don’t have to get bogged down spending hours a day on social media — the cost/benefit likely won’t pay off. But do post daily, like clockwork, to make it a habit. And be mindful that both quantity and quality matter.

#3 Pull in your employees
Running a small business can require you to wear many hats and task your employees outside of their areas of expertise. Don’t be afraid to tap them for social media activity. Ask your employees to follow, like and share company posts. Ask them to set up LinkedIn profiles if they don’t have them and link to you to expand your network. Encourage your staff to develop ideas for hashtags, promotions and posts for the company. You may have a social media savant sitting at your reception desk or driving a forklift. This is a cost effective means to promote your social media posts and inspire employees.

#4 Color outside the lines
Drab posts won’t engage social media surfers — neither will blatantly salesy posts. If you can get a social media campaign or post to go viral, that’s bank. But this requires creativity. Set up a YouTube video contest of customers eating your baked goods in interesting places. Post a poll about a hot TV show like The Walking Dead or selfies of your employees doing funny things on the job with a hashtag that ties back to your brand. Be daring (but not inappropriate) and inspire emotions whether it be laughter, tears or nostalgia — so long as it’s memorable, sharable and engaging.

#5 Cross-promote your channels
One no-brainer way to effectively leverage social media activity is cross-promotion. When you post a thought piece on LinkedIn, share it in your Twitter feed and on your Facebook page. Likewise, link to Facebook posts in tweets and vice versa. This is an easy way to ensure you have sufficient activity across all your channels without devoting hours a day to creating content. This will also allow you to capitalize on links, likes and shares. Be sure to include social share links on your company’s blog posts (which should also be linked by you to LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook) to feed your channels.

Social media marketing, which is definitely on the rise, is one of the cost-savviest ways to promote your business, attract new customers and blow up your brand. But these are all push activities. On the pull side, existing and potential customers now expect you to have a social media presence and lack of one can cost you business. In addition to posting content to be absorbed and shared, be sure to monitor your channels for comments and feedback that represent opportunities to solve problems, address concerns and acquire new business.

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