social media for local businesses

Social media can be a powerful tool for connecting with your customers, expanding your client base and getting your brand recognized by a large number of potential clients.  Before jumping on board the social media train, however, local business owners need to understand the amount of work that will be required to develop and execute an effective social media strategy.  If not done correctly, social media marketing can turn out to be a lot of wasted time and effort.

Getting involved with social media is not a one-time project that can be implemented, like a website, and then left to evolve on its own.  It is a dynamic, continuous effort that must be nurtured and evolved, much as one would a relationship with friends or family.  Before getting started, ask yourself some important questions.

Who Will Manage Your Social Media Accounts?

If you’re a small business, you probably don’t have a dedicated marketing person to manage your social media accounts.   Posting regularly to one or more social media sites throughout the day will take time and effort out of your busy schedule.   Are you prepared to make the commitment required to ensure the success of your social media campaign?

What Social Media Sites are Your Customers Using?

Different types of customers frequent different types of social media sites.  Younger, mobile customers may prefer to tweet with their friends, while older customers are more likely to be on Facebook.  If you’re a business that sells to other businesses, for example, you’re more likely to find your customers on LinkedIn.  Before deciding on a social media platform, you need to define who your customers are and how they spend their free time, in order to get some idea of which types of social media sites they are most likely to frequent.

Where Will You Drive Your Social Media Traffic?

You may want to use social media to drive traffic to your website or blog, where you can post more extensive articles and information about your business.  Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are great for extending your reach, but your ultimate goal is to build your brand and increase your client base, which is where your website comes in.  Make sure your business is well represented on your web page and that you have lots of interesting news and information to offer.

How Will You Track Your Results?

Use tools like Google Analytics to track which links people are clicking on, and then create more content around the most popular topics.  This will help you to better understand your audience and connect with them, both on your social media as well as your blog and/or web page.

Is Social Media Aligned With Your Overall Marketing Plan?

While social media is a great tool for connecting with your customers, don’t forget about the rest of your marketing program.  Social media can be used, for example, as a way of getting customers to sign up for newsletters and promotions, which will, in turn, benefit your email marketing campaign.  And if you can’t or don’t want to devote the time and effort required to develop and manage a successful social media program, consider putting more energy into your other marketing efforts, and leave the social media to the social butterflies.

Social media can be beneficial for certain local businesses, but thinking about the above points will let you determine if it’s right for your business in terms of opportunity and investments required.