Let’s face it, there are a lot of social networks out there and more are popping up every day. For a small business owner, that can get a little intimidating. If only there was an easy way to start getting involved in each. One little thing or activity that could help spur a future of more engaged results and interaction.
Why not start right here?
Below are five ways to ease your way into five different social networks.
Twitter is a great platform for small business owners who need to get their message out there, but don’t necessarily have the resources to do it through more traditional channels. Twitter can get you that network by investing time, not dollars. Each time you send a tweet it’s blasted out to the people in your network, who then have the ability to share your content with their unique network and so on. The stronger the network that you build, the greater potential reach for your content.
So where do you start? By building a local audience. How?
Start listening to the keyword-related conversations happening 15-, 25-, maybe even 50-miles you’re your brick and mortar location. By using’s Twitter’s Advanced Search to search [keywords + zip code] you can easily find these conversations as they’re happening. If you’re a local car mechanic, use this search to find the people within driving range who are experiencing car trouble. Follow them and reach out.
Use Twitter Directories like WeFollow, Twellow and Tweepz to identify other local Twitter users. Once you’re able to create a list of people in your area who would benefit from your service, Twitter becomes a much more relevant place to spend your time.
Flickr isn’t as hyped as some of the other social platforms but it’s still one you should be paying attention to. As a SMB, using images gives you the opportunity to represent your business in a more personal way and connects you to people uber-passionate about the topics they talk about.
So where do you start? By using Flickr Communities to build awareness and authority. How? By joining the discussions happening inside targeted Flickr groups.
For example, say you’re a florist. Do a search for [floral arrangements] and then look through the Groups listed on the right-hand side.
Click into any of those groups to see a list of discussions taking place. This will help you connect with people who are obsessed with flowers or who are talking about different arrangements. By becoming involved in these discussions and the group chats you become the Go To Expert on this subject. And you can bet that the next time one of these community members has an engagement they need a flower arrangement for, you’re going to be on the short list of companies they seek out. It’s all about building those relationships before you need them.
I’ve always viewed Facebook as a slightly more personal platform than Twitter or LinkedIn, and I don’t think I’m alone. As such, small business owners do best when they use Facebook as a place to let customers peek behind the scenes and bring them into their business. Make Facebook your personal portal where you get to share what you’re working on, what you’re thinking about, and what’s coming for your business.
Where do you start? By inviting customers into your day-to-day. How? By using the Facebook Questions feature.
Use the Questions feature on Facebook to poll your audience on things you have going on. Maybe it’s to ask them their favorite way to use your product or what product they’d like to see, or what color they’d like to see it in – just get them talking and engaging. Because Facebook likes this type of interactive content, you’ll notice that anything posted through the Questions feature will naturally get more visibility than a simple Facebook status. More visibility begets more engagement which will increase your EdgeRank score and help lift up the rest of your content.
LinkedIn is another social network that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. The power of LinkedIn for a small business owner is its ability to connect you with the right people to help you build your business. This includes potential new employees, vendors, partners, and other people you simply want to meet.
Where do you start? Again, by building that local network before you need it. How do you do it? By leveraging common connections.
Start off by creating a list of people (or types of people) that you want to meet/get introductions to. Then, use LinkedIn’s Advanced Search to search for the types of people you want to meet.
- [vendor + keyword + zip code]
- [employee skill + zip code]
- [company name + zip code + 2nd connections]
Doing these types of search will allow you to find that accounting vendor you’re looking for or a representative from Company X who you share a mutual connection with. By reaching out to your common friend, it can help you score the introduction and a new possible relationship. Using LinkedIn’s searching capabilities is a great way to strategically meet people and grow your business.
The strongest marketing component from Google+, IMO, comes in the ability to segment content via user-defined Circles. As a marketer and a business owner in the tech space, I love that I have one portal I can use to talk to ALL of my business contacts and do it in a way that is targeted to their needs.
How do you start? By creating and optimizing your Circles. How? By bucketing your connections.
Take advantage of the Circles functionality by putting some thought into how you bucket your contacts. For example, you may want to classify people by:
- Frequent Blog Commenters/Social Engagers
- Local Community Folks
- Client Wishlist
Once you have your Circles intact, you can start creating content that is customized for these groups. You can turn your Blog Commenters Circle into a makeshift idea forum where you “test out” potential blog post ideas to see if they spark a conversation. You can use your Vendor circle as a way to create a company newsletter to let them know what you’re working in and get input about how their product can help you. Once you have your Circles down you can become a whole lot more strategic with your content, while still housing it all on one platform.
While the sheer number of social networks may be intimidating, the trick is to identify a solid purpose for each and to then hop in and make that platform useful. Hopefully the list above will give you some ideas about common launch points.