Seeing as to how it appears that social media is here to stay (I know, I am a genius), there are some guidelines that small business owners can follow to ensure that they use social media effectively. Here are 3 simple guidelines for using social media.
Guideline #1: Be Consistent
Let me say first that I love entrepreneurs and their spirit for jumping into things and running with them. Let me also say that entrepreneurs have a hard time following through sometimes and it kills their credibility. Social media is one of those areas where I see small business owners half ass it all the time.
When I work with a new client, I will typically start the relationship by looking at their online presence and what current channels they are using to promote their business. One of the first things I will at is their website. Once I am at their website, I will poke around a little bit to get a feel for what they are about. When I look at the blog section of their site a common scenario is to see a couple of weeks of heavy posting and then no further posts for seven months.
This is the same scenario you will see for other social media vehicles like Facebook, Twitter etc. A small business owner will create an account and maybe have a short burst of activity but then you see the tell tale signs of an inactive user. Those signs include a vacant avatar for their profile. They don't respond to any form of communication through those tools. Last, you will also see the account virtually dormant for a long period of time.
The one piece of advice for consistency is this. Figure out what best works for you and follow a schedule. If it's blogging once a week, then blog once a week.
Guideline #2: Be Careful What You Say
For all intents and purposes, we will call this the Larry Johnson rule going forward. Larry Johnson is a NFL running back who got himself fired from the Kansas City Chiefs this past fall for using Twitter to call out his coach and topped that off by using a gay slur to a Twitter heckler. See more about the meltdown here. Reportedly, the meltdown cost him $213,000. His actions also hurt his reputation and possibly hastened the end of his NFL career.
The rule of thumb here is that once you put it out there, it's out there and you can't take it back. Econsultancy posted some great guidelines that include some ways to avoid saying or doing something you will regret on social media.
Guideline #3: Don't try to do it all.
There are hundreds of social media outlets that you can utilize to communicate with a group of like minded people. There are also several different ways that you can communicate with these groups (in writing, podcasting, video etc.) One of the mistakes that small business owners make with social media is trying to do it all. Let's face it. There are probably several different outlets that make sense for you to get your message out but you can only do what you can handle effectively.
If you can, hire someone to help you with social media. If you are the one in charge, then it's time to handle social media wisely. Find out what your customer would most value and where they spend their time and then figure out which of those outlets you can commit your time to. It's all OK to consider your strengths as the business owner to determine which outlets you would be best at using.
As small business owner you are busy. You have to be intentional with everything that you do especially if you don't have a huge team to help you run things. Social media is a great way to communicate to the public and bring your current clients and potential clients closer to you. It takes some focused direction on the part of the small business owner to ensure that their social media efforts provide value to the public as well as to the business.
What are your guideline for effective use of social media?