You see it touted everywhere: social media is the “it” thing to do in marketing, right? But how? You’re a small business with very limited resources (time, money, and employees), so how on earth can you incorporate a social media strategy into what you’re already doing when your day is already full?
There are ways that small business owners can integrate social media tactics into their current marketing strategies without taxing their resources too heavily. The key is to be smart and efficient in how you approach it.
First and foremost, you need to understand your audience. This will help you pinpoint where it is you need to engage. Next, identify just what it is that your audience is going to find valuable enough to share with others through their social networks.
Simple and affordable tools like Google Alerts, which is free, or Trackur, which has different levels of service can help you keep an eye on what’s going on with your audience when it pertains to the subjects that affect your business.
Your employees. While many big companies look to one person to be the social media strategist or a community manager, small business owners might not have the luxury of being able to afford to hire one person to do just that. Instead, educate all of your employees who have direct contact with your customers about what you want to accomplish in social media.
This strategy will also spread the workload and help you reach more of your customers with a lot less effort. Take for example a restaurant or bar. You’ll want to make sure that you encourage your staff, (waiters, bartenders, managers, entertainment, etc.) to let your customers know you have a Facebook fan page, Twitter account, or even to encourage check-ins and reviews/tips on Foursquare or Yelp.
Your current marketing literature. Make sure that any of the primary social networks that you’re participating in are listed prominently on your marketing literature, so it’s easy for your customers to know how to connect with you.
Don’t just say “Find Us on XYZ.” Remember, you’re dealing with social networks - not search engines. If your customer hasn’t visited you before on a community like Facebook, it could be a tough task to find you. If you’re utilizing a blog instead of Twitter, or a Facebook page instead of LinkedIn, list those URLs.
On Facebook, it is even more important to claim your username (i.e., a vanity URL such as facebook.com/YourBusinessName). Put this information on business cards, flyers you hand out to customers, menus, table tents, cups, key chains, or any other promotional items you may give out to your customers.
If you’re trying to connect with them in the virtual world, make sure that on every level that makes sense in the physical world, you’re letting your customers know how to find you online.
Use your offline content online. Every business has a story to tell – in fact, probably several stories! These stories are content! And guess what? People love to hear stories and share them, so get them off of your personal walls and utilize them as content for your company to share in online communities where your target audience is.
A shrewd small business person can “pitch” these special interest stories to their customers and even the media by turning them into online content that audiences can share easily through pictures, blog content, videos, PDFs, or slideshow presentations.
Small businesses can do social media; it’s just about being savvy enough to incorporate some of your strategies into procedures that already exist and understanding that you also need to focus on where your customers/audience are connecting.
No business can be everywhere, so focus your efforts to connect and engage in the communities that are most important to them; not just where you think it will be “cool” to have a profile.
The Charleston Chamber is excited to be working with Chamber Explorations to offer two new travel programs in 2014.
During Spring Break, travelers can “Discover Cuba” for eight days while touring all the major sites in Havana and the surrounding area. Passengers will arrive in Miami on their own and stay overnight on March 9, 2014. The group will then fly out of Miami International Airport the next morning for seven days and six nights in Cuba.
The second travel program will be to Austria and Germany, with a departure date of Sept. 22, 2014. This classic Old World tour includes time spent at the legendary Munich Oktoberfest. Other highlights include the Imperial Palace “Hofburg,” the world famous “Golden Roof,” and the fairy tale castle “Neuschwanstein.”
All members of the public, Chamber members and non-members are invited to attend a free informational meeting on Thursday, Aug. 22 to learn more about these group travel programs. The meeting will be held at 5 p.m. in the basement meeting room of Charleston City Hall, located at 520 Jackson Ave. in Charleston.
If you are interested in learning more about the travel programs, contact the Charleston Chamber at 217-345-7041 or attend the meeting. For more information, visit the Chamber website at www.charlestonchamber.com.
Cindy White is executive director of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce.