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5 Ways Strategic Social Media Can Help Small Businesses

I often write about enterprise organizations and global brands…essentially big businesses. This is the first in a series dedicated to small businesses.

One of the biggest misconceptions about social media strategy is that only the big brands and enterprise organizations can afford success. The impression is bigger businesses have unlimited resources, people and budgets to execute on all new ideas. This is simply not true. Like in anything, people are focused on their jobs as they exist and anything new that comes along, well, it’s met with prejudice.

The truth is that small businesses possess an enormous advantage over big businesses—the ability to recognize and adapt to new opportunities much faster, with far less investment, and with a greater capacity to learn and improve at will. So when it comes down to how a small business should consider how to employ a social media strategy, why would we look to big business for inspiration?

a) Because they have millions of friends, fans, and followers?
b) They are getting a ton of Likes, Tweets, and Youtube views?
c) They are always the source of the best content – videos, posts, infographics, designs
d) None of the above

The answer is “d” – none of the above.


Because most businesses, large and small, have not answered that very question, why? Why would we go on social networks? Why would customers connect with us there? Why would we gain any value out of online engagement? Why would any of this impact my business?

At the root of the problem, today’s social media programs start with the technology in mind and not the solution in mind. Many businesses jump into Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+, et al, without thinking through opportunities or customer expectations and experiences.

To help get you started and to leap frog even the most advanced businesses in social media, I’ve outlined 5-step approach. Working through it will assist in the development of a relevant social media strategy that allows you to earn customer attention, relationships, and loyalty in places that only expand your reach and impact.

5 Ways to Develop a Strategic Social Media Presence

1. Listen, Search, Walk a “Daily in the Life” of…

Take some time to search Google, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google+ for related keywords and geographies to your business.

Take notes of what you find…capture the trends, insights, activity, and the players that matter to you

Document the 5W’s + the H.E.: Who, What, When, Why, How, and to What Extent – it’s the only way to work toward ROI

Prioritize networks

Recognize patterns and behavior

Observe trends and themes

Tip: Also pay attention to what people aren’t saying or sharing

2. Define Your Online Brand: What do you want people to see and appreciate?

Take a step back to think about the value you can add based on who you are and the expertise or the unique service or solution that only you can provide

Define why you are different than your competition

Design the professional brand and the persona you would like to convey online

Describe “your” experience: What is it that you want people to see or think when they find you in social networks

Portray your brand, persona and the experience in your profiles

Tip: Don’t sell or overly promote…

3. Develop a Social Media Strategy: Make your presence matter

Write a vision statement for how you will use social media to build relationships, a community around your value proposition, and how social media will enable your strategy

Describe what social media success will look like

Customize your presence, goals, and what success looks like in each network

Create an editorial program that reinforces your value, your business, and your goals within each network

Understand what format to you love using AND what seems to be the formats your customers prefer

Curate relevant and interesting content that reflects your professional and personal interests

Tip: Find the balance between personal and professional activity online, it can’t be ALL business

4. Build and Invest in Your Community: Participate and earn affinity to become a trusted resource

Share insights in the communities that matter to your business and reach beyond the friends, fans, and followers you already have

Identify and talk to local online influencers who can help you spread your expertise and value

Ask and answer questions in your communities and across other vibrant communities hosted by others

Maintain a valuable and timely presence

Create a “linked” network of resources: Link to or recommend people who can also help your customers

Tip: Invest proportionally in social media, search engine optimization/digital and your real world activities

5. Learn: Repeat steps 1-5 over time to stay relevant as technology and behavior evolves

Learn from everything to improve experiences and your overall strategy

Ask your community what they’re looking for and how you can better help

Monitor activity using social media listening tools around you and in your areas of focus to stay on top of trends, themes, and needs

Tip: Looking at activity through the lens of your customers and walking in their shoes will always keep you on target in your strategy

This post was originally published on AT&T’s Networking Exchange Blog.

Connect with me: Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Google+

The End of Business as Usual is officially here…




Image Credit: Shutterstock

45 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “5 Ways Strategic Social Media Can Help Small Businesses”

  1. DAKrolak says:

    One of your best articles yet! I look forward to you addressing the needs & goals of small businesses!

  2. This is a great list, and something a lot of people don’t recognize —
    that is, the small business advantage. It doesn’t take billions of
    dollars to link your social media strategy with your company’s mission
    and overall value proposition. But that’s where it starts. Integrate
    your value prop into your social media strategy, and you’re a step ahead
    of most businesses.

  3. Annabelle Howard says:

    This is my new to-do list. Really helpful. Thanks.

  4. freshtight says:

    Yes, great post with actionable steps that can be applied to any industry. Word-of-mouth marketing is still the most powerful form of marketing and social media is exactly that. Create a community around your brand, encourage active discussion and contribute and provide value as a small business owner. We are what makes the world go round.

  5. Holly Acito says:

    Great post and advice. People love jumping to social media tactics before figuring out their objectives!

  6. Ivan Slade says:

    Great post really good to see some simple, actionable steps for small business to see how (and if) they should get into Social Media. SO many small business owners are struggling to understand how to even start with Social Media and many are wasting lots of time and money without a clear strategy in mind. For me having the editorial program laid out for at least 6 months in advance is key to keeping programs running well with consistency.

  7. Pingback: Small is beautiful
  8. Excellent article, thank you so much! Simple but insightful, and breaking down step-by-step makes it seem possible to achieve this success

  9. Ryan Malone says:

    I often speak with small businesses that feel social media marketing is just not right for them. After further investigation to understand why this comment is made in the first place I am finding out that many small businesses just don’t understand the social media landscape. Many are just not aware as to how it can be applied to help them find their footing in the popular social media channels.

  10. Bryan Adams says:

    It’s an interesting conundrum sometimes. But 9/10 small businesses we speak to simply don’t know where to start and so they do nothing. A common misconception is that certain channels ‘aren’t right for our business’ because they’ve made a poor attempt and failed.

    When one piece of content doesn’t set the world on fire at the first hurdle, business owners come to us on the verge of giving up and proclaiming social media to be the ‘wrong fit’ for their audience.

    The advice I give that seems to resonate and get some positive results is to first concentrate on showing a business owner or marketing manager one small example, from start to finish, of how real relationships can be forged in one channel, starting with just one piece of content. Once they see a small response, their appetite grows a little more to continue.
    Time and time again, In my experience, small businesses have failures in the social space due to a lack of some basic practical tactics (not strategy) and a lack of sufficient creative thinking as to how to effectively add real value to customers and prospects alike.
    This social media stuff isn’t easy. You can’t JUST follow a step by step guide, you need to add more thought and more attention to detail than ever before if you want it to pay off.
    It’s so powerful and valuable when it works for your business. So why would anyone expect it to be easy. We find that the businesses that experience a small success early on also learn and appreciate that the more effort you apply, the more results you get out of it.
    This is a great post with great advice but if you put sub-standard effort and subsequently poor content into the formula you can’t expect to get any tangible, valuable results in return.

  11. Nice article Brian am glad to have found it (despite being late!). I agree your points and I think laying out a strategy before you jump into social media is right thing to do. Too many people look at social media as a free resource while in fact it takes considerable time to plan and execute well. Crucially for me, businesses or individuals should have a clear idea of the metrics they will be measuring and assessing on regular basis if their strategy is yielding the results they were hoping for

  12. Thank you so much for this breakdown in simple to use and understand steps

  13. ambreen11 says:

    Social Media Presence allows you to display a link to any or all of your profile pages including 118 different social media networking sites.Social networking sites like Linkedin, StumbleUpon, and Digg, just to name a few, are growing more rapidly every single day. If you only have profiles on Facebook and Twitter you are missing out on far too many very popular social hubs that are sure to bring more traffic to your website and can put more money in your pocket if you take the time to grow your network.

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