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SOCIAL MEDIA | Diving into the Social Media Pool - can be fun but watch out for the Sharks.

OK, so you have a small business but up to now you have yet to dive into the social media pool …

We’re here to tell you that diving right in is the only option. People are online talking about your company as you read this, whether you like or not. If you don’t engage in the conversation, you risk losing your customers and perhaps, an even worse scenario is if they’re NOT talking about you but rather about your competitors and your competitors are there to respond!

Wading into the fast-moving flow of social media can be daunting to a small business owner with very little time on his hands. Social networking sites provide unprecedented opportunities to get the word out about yourself and your business. Unfortunately, many people don’t have a clue how to use these tools effectively... So here is a comprehensive social media cheat sheet for the time-strapped entrepreneur…

1) Don’t sign up for social media if you’re not prepared to commit time to interacting with your friends and followers. Commit to a schedule and stick to it – whether its daily tweets or weekly Facebook updates if you step into the pool, be ready to swim regularly. Having a “dead” page is worse than having no page at all.

2) Prioritise your time – keeping up with social media can be daunting; don’t make the mistake of diving into too many social media ponds. Be selective and choose a social media site that you believe best suits your target audience demographic then focus your attention there.

3) Once you’ve set up a page for your business, you will need to market it to your prospective customers or existing clients. This can be easily done by including a link in your email signature, adding it to your business profiles on sites such as LinkedIn, on your business cards and other promotional material. Most importantly, you can add a feed or interactive buttons on your website to drive traffic to your social media page and vice versa.

4) Keep it Professional but personal to a certain degree so that your visitors feel like they’re engaging with you on a one-to-one basis. While you shouldn’t get too personal, you shouldn’t be too business-like, either. That is, your contacts don’t want to just see post after post about the product or service you provide, until it seems that it’s just spam. They’ll unfollow or “hide” you pretty quickly if that happens.

5) Let your clients & business associates get to know you a little. Post occasionally about your activities that are relevant to your business. For instance, you can post an amusing anecdote about something that occurred at the office. Or you can post about the great book you just read that relates to your business or area of expertise. Even though these don’t directly promote your business, they provide a glimpse of you as a person, without getting overly personal. People like to do business with people they know.

6) Use paid advertising after you have established a small following of existing clients and colleagues.This is a more acceptable method to use to introduce yourself and your business to strangers without sending them friend requests (which many will ignore and consider rude coming from people they don’t know). The key here is to make the ad interesting and intriguing enough to draw them to your own site. Otherwise, it will be ignored, as most online advertising is. Allocate a budget then measure, measure, analyse and revise your content and strategy according to the results.

We have barely scratched the surface with the opportunities that exist in the Social Media arena, but you have to start somewhere. Please share our tips and tricks and help other small businesses as they enter the social media arena and let us know your success stories, we’d love to hear from you…

Until the next time, remember that Facebook is a place where you will get 10 likes and 20 comments on a status update : “Leave Me Alone"...
See you in a chatroom near you soon!

Some tips for Social Media content

Be relevant and keep your posts concise and to the point, don't ramble and don't forget to include a link to your website.

Innovative headline copy and an attention grabbing image will generate interest in your message.

Always acknowledge, respond and engage with visitors who comment on your posting or share your link.

Offer sneak previews of new products or services that you’re considering implementing or that are in development, the feedback generated could assist with product development and adaptation.

Providing useful tips and hints to your audience and sharing the knowledge that you've gathered through your trade can go a long way toward boosting your brand.

Offer prizes, special offers and discounts via your social media platform to encourage interaction with your audience.

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