Building a Social Media Following in Business

For small businesses, social media can be complicated and daunting. Some have used it to greatly expand their audience and sales, while others have used it and seen almost no change in their business. The one thing that is true for all businesses is that social media can’t be ignored. If you want to make the most of your business’s online presence, you’ll need to decide if social media is right for you. And for a good deal of companies, it often is.

If you are planning to invest time and resources into social media, it’s important to know how to focus your efforts so you can gather a following, with the eventual goal of driving more people to your business. Commitment, consistency and patience are key. Here are the basic rules for creating a social media following that will help your business in the long-run.

Do Your Research Beforehand

This is the most important, and often overlooked, step. Ask yourself three important questions:

  1. Who am I targeting with my social media? Current customers? New customers? A large group of people? Professionals in an industry? The general public? A combination of the above? Before you start launching your efforts, know exactly how big or small your target is.
  2. What’s my final goal? To drive more online or in-person business? To spread awareness or promote a cause related to my business? To engage more with my customers? To help inform people about what we do? Or something else? If you don’t define your goal, you won’t know what to post or if your efforts are working towards what you want.
  3. Lastly, what social media channels can help me do all this? Are you going to go with more mainstream social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn? What about more niche ones like Foursquare or Pinterest? Be sure to know which social networks can actually help you reach your audience and your goals. Whether it’s one of them or all of them (spreading yourself too thin and being on more channels than you can effectively manage is not recommended; better to focus on select ones and commit to them).
Consider these factors when determining the social media channels in which to engage: the demographics of your audience, the location of your customers and potential customers, whether your product or service lends itself to strong visuals, the amount of “news” you have to share, whether it’s B2B or B2C, and other factors. Yahoo Small Business Advisor provides a nice outline of how to choose social media channels.

Be an Authority Figure

While your goals will definitely influence the kind of content you publish, you should always focus on being an authority figure of some kind on your social media channels. This means consistently sharing useful content and information (about 80% of your total content, actually), whether it’s about your specific business or a broader category, like news around your industry. Either way, you must post information that people will look towards to stay informed. This will make people see your channels as an important source, giving them a reason to keep following you.

Offer Something Unique

With social media being used so heavily, it’s very important to distinguish yourself from everyone else adding to the noise. You can do this through:

  1. the content you share
  2. appealing to an untapped group of people
  3. mixing your content with a unique personality.

Just make sure you content is always either informative or entertaining, and connects back to what you do in some way. Keep those traits in mind as you you strive to stand apart from the crowd.

Build Groups of People to Follow and Engage With

Depending on who your target audience(s) are, you may want to create a few lists of specific users to follow on your channels. If your target is industry professionals, build of list of them to always know what they’re talking about and be part of the conversation. This will help you stay connected in a focused way and not miss out on anything important.

Take the opportunity to get involved in conversations started by others, as a way to show your expertise and connect with new people.

Be Open and Build Trust

Since social media’s major selling point is instant and easy direct connection with anyone, honesty is the best policy. Before social media, there was often a wall between customers and businesses that made communication between them harder. Even The White House and President Obama use social media to communicate directly with constituents, a concept unimaginable even a few years ago.

Social media brought down that wall, so you shouldn’t try and rebuild it on your channels. While you should try to stay positive, you should also be honest and engaging with your audience. That’s what will allow you to build better relationships, which will help you reach your goals faster and more effectively.

Be Persistent

Know that all the above often won’t come together right away. Whether you want to drive new business, build awareness, or march towards another goal, it won’t happen in a few days. Good relationships take time to build, but the payoff in the very end is worth it when done right.

Keep In Mind

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is to not worry about quantitative measures such as likes and follows. These are often looked at as measures of success, but for most smaller businesses the more important thing is the quality of your engagement and if you’ve reached your specific goals. If you meet your goal of making your current customers more loyal and informed about what you do, then the amount of likes you have doesn’t really matter. The real results are always the ones your business set for itself.

If you have any questions about how to execute any of the above, comments or best practices, please talk to us on the comments field or on our social media channels (all links here).