When a small business owner comes to me experiencing frustration with social media, I admit, I’m a little confused. Why? Because I can’t help but think that small business owners are the segment of the business population that is most suited for social media success. I mean, who knows how to talk to their audience better than a small business owner? Who understands customers’ needs better than a small business owner? Who lives and breathes the same everyday struggles? No one.
But then I realize that that’s not where small business owners find themselves in trouble. The trouble spots for SMBs are much different. Often they’re in the implementation of social media.
Below are four social media mistakes common to small business owners and how you can maneuver around them. Because once you do, you’ve got this social media thing down.
1. They don’t build a unified presence.
Social media doesn’t work when it exists as its own island or when it’s fragmented from everything else you’re doing. In order to truly benefit, your marketing campaigns should work together. For example, your website should support what you’re doing on Twitter, which should support what you’re doing on YouTube, which should support what you’re doing on your website. Creating a unified presence helps customers to trust your brand, to find the information they’re looking for, and to pick the form of engagement that makes most sense for them. If you’re using Twitter but not connecting it to anything else you’re doing, you may be causing your customers to question if that account really belongs to you or if they’re supposed to be engaging with you there. Customers want to get the same “feeling” from all your touch points. If your presence isn’t unified, you may be sending them mixed signals.
2. They’re not connecting with customers.
I don’t mean emotionally, I mean physically. One of the biggest mistake I see small business owners make with social media is that they log on to talk to people, to share what they’re doing, to gripe about something that ruined their day, but they’re not proactively connecting with potential customers. They’re not taking advantage of Twitter’s Advanced Search features that allow you to search by ZIP code, hashtag, sentiment or combination of keywords. They’re not getting more out of their Facebook status updates by targeting content to a particular area or interest group.
If you’re a pizzeria located in Columbus, Ohio, you should be using Twitter’s Advanced Search to find people in your area talking about how they want pizza for dinner. When you find them, invite them to come try your pizzeria instead of spending another boring night ordering in from one of the larger chains. There are ways to be a proactive business in social media. These are the opportunities SMBs should be seeking out.
3. They don’t use tools.
No. I am not suggesting that you automate your social media presence, but there are tools out there that you can use to make social media more manageable and to help it fit into your day.
For example, a tool like HootSuite can help you schedule tweets in advance so that you can share posts without being present. It will also allow you to manage multiple accounts (personal + professional) and sync your Twitter and Facebook updates so you can post at both locations with one button.
Creating Saved Searches on Twitter can help you find quick brand or keyword mentions that you should be watching and responding to so you don’t miss any important conversations. It can also help you find users in your area who tweet about topics you’re interested in.
Using these tools can help small business owners do more, faster, by putting them in touch with the users they want to connect with and helping them quickly find conversations to participate in.
4. They don’t empower employees.
I see a lot of small business owners experimenting with social media. However, I don’t see that many small business employees participating in social media. I’m not sure whether their bosses are discouraging it or whether they just don’t think to encourage it. However, as the owner of a business of any size, it’s up to you to empower your employees to use social media. Your customers want to hear from them. They want to hear their stories, learn their names, and get to know their voices. If this is done correctly, your employees can become great advocates for your company and help you build awareness and trust among a larger audience. But first you have to let them. That means teaching employees how to properly engage, giving them guidelines for that interaction, and then trusting them to represent your brand properly.
Those are four mistakes I see common to social media. What am I missing or where do you find yourself struggling?