Social media is a core networking tool and an essential part of the marketing mix for businesses of any size. Getting started with social media is as easy (if not easier) for a small firm as it is for big companies with large marketing departments and budgets. So it really does level the playing field.
Many small firms are finding that a presence on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn or Facebook opens up new lines of communication with their existing customers as well as bringing in fresh new business opportunities.
But the digital world has not replaced other forms of marketing communication. Instead, businesses now have to ensure that they engage with customers wherever they would like to be found, both online and off.
When it comes to social media, where you focus your activity depends entirely on where your customers and prospects expect to find you.
First steps with social media
Creating your profile is a vital first step. Unlike big businesses that rely on a logo or a corporate identity on social media sites, as a small business owner you can present a friendly and personal face to the world. Use a professional photo and make sure you convey what's special about you and your business without sounding too salesy.
Once you are up and running, you can focus on building up followers and finding key influencers that can help raise your profile.
Employing a social media consultant
If you are thinking of working with an outside consultant to establish your social media strategy, think carefully about what to ask to ensure you find the right person for the job. It's also worth researching how other companies like yours are using social media. Check out what your competitors post, and how often, and notice how they engage with their followers.
Learn the rules of the game
Social media can be a risky business. Make sure you protect your brand and keep within the law. It's also worth drawing up a social media policy for your firm so that all your social media conversations are on message, no matter which member of the team is posting content.
Make your social media work harder
Once you've got into good social media habits, you can set fresh objectives and try to improve your results. This could include anything from boosting your connections to getting more out of groups on LinkedIn. Social media tools can also help you to manage and measure your day-to-day activity on sites like Twitter.