The Best Social Media Tips and Tools for Small Business Owners

Marketing through social mediaFacebook recently began testing a new “want” button that enables users to let everyone in their network know when they desire a particular piece of merchandise. Victoria's Secret and Neiman Marcus are two of the test retailers who can display their products for Facebook users to click through, “want” and later purchase. While it may take a while for this functionality to roll out to the masses, it's a great example of how small businesses can use social media tools to interact with and expand their customer base. Businesses that aren't using this technology properly are missing out on potentially lucrative results.

Know the Value of a Share

Eventbrite, an online event promoter and ticket seller, released a study that quantifies the value of a Facebook share and a Twitter re-tweet. One of the metrics it devised, known as dollars per share (DPS), determines the value of a “share” when additional items are sold as a result. For instance, when you get some flowers from a flower delivery service and post the experience on Facebook, any subsequent business resulting from that share adds to its DPS. Word of mouth is an important factor to consider with social media sharing as well. Eventbrite said its Facebook DPS has grown 81 percent since 2010, while its Twitter dollars grew 330 percent in that same time period.

Though DPS is not a universal measure as to the value of a re-tweet or share, it is a good indicator of potential profits for social-savvy businesses. Consumers love to share unique and compelling items with their friends and family, so one customer can turn into three or four, and fans with a strong social network of their own can grow your audience by leaps and bounds.

Don't Overlook LinkedIn

The most business-oriented of all the social networks, LinkedIn is a great place to generate both buzz and leads, and it's well-suited to approach a targeted audience. Create a personal page in addition to your business page, but make sure these profiles are completed before posting; a completed profile gets up to seven times more views than a meager one, LinkedIn reported. Update your status often, but keep updates strictly business-related. Participate in any of the myriad industry-specific groups available, or consider creating one yourself. LinkedIn is the definitive go-to for business networking, so consider a LinkedIn makeover if your business is poorly represented.

Newsjack Whenever Possible

Newsjacking is the process of capitalizing on a trending piece of current events. You take a hot-right-now piece of news and ride its coattails as a way of garnering some of the public's attention for your brand, product or service. Oreo newsjacked the Super Bowl blackout with great aplomb; according to Innovative Marketing Resources, when the cookie company tweeted, “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” at the beginning of the blackout, social media users retweeted the gem more than 15,000 times, and the same nugget generated more than 20,000 likes on Facebook.

When a big story breaks, you have to act quickly, and obviously, newsjacking isn’t always going to be a huge success. But done well, it can help drive traffic to your website, create further brand awareness and increase sales.

Be Consistent and Genuine

Social networks are only good for your bottom line if your brand is presented consistently across the Web. The logo and fonts you use should be exactly the same on Google+, Twitter and your official website. Speak to your visitors in a tone that reflects how you want your brand to be perceived in the marketplace; using “lol” and “idk” is fine if a vast majority of your customers are under 21, but try this when marketing to an older audience and you risk coming off childish.

Update Frequently

It is called “social” media for a reason. Invite your email newsletter subscribers to like or follow you on your social networks, then get busy engaging your visitors. This will create opportunities for sales and good word-of-mouth advertising. It would be great if your business grew to the point that you cannot answer each and every post submitted. But an effort should be made to have conversations with as many visitors as possible.

Ask them questions on your social media pages, too. People love to have their opinions sought. This tactic not only engages them, but you'll learn more about what drives them. Show potential and existing customers that you care what they think and say— ultimately, this will translate to more sales.

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CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.
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