By Cyndi Lieske
Ann Arbor SCORE
If you’ve been putting off starting that blog, Facebook or Twitter account, social media expert Susan Gunelius, wants you to know it’s time to make the leap.
Avoiding social media is no longer an acceptable response for a small business owner to take, she said. As the author of “30-Minute Social Media Marketing,” she travels the country talking to small business owners about social media.
When she asks them how they learn about businesses and new products they overwhelmingly tell her they turn to the Internet and search engines to find what they need.
“I’ll tell you, out of the hundreds and hundreds I’ve spoken to, I’d say probably two raised their hand and said they used something other than Google or whatever their favorite search engine is,” she said.
By committing to spending small blocks of time online each day, even the most timid computer user can improve their online visibility. Gunelius recommends 10 minutes when you arrive at work, 10 minutes before leaving for lunch and 10 minutes before leaving the office.
“I always say every minute you can spend online on the social web can only help your business, and every minute you are not there, you better believe your competitors are more than happy to take that opportunity,” she said.
Here are five tips from Gunelius to improve your social media literacy:
1. Play first. Choose a social media tool such as a blog, Facebook page, Twitter page or LinkedIn profile to get familiar with and create a personal account. Gunelius said she encourages new users to create a personal blog on www.wordpress.com.
“Start a personal blog about a topic you like,” she said. “You can make it private if you want to. Learn how to use the tool. Create a personal account, something not associated with your business. Play around with it for a few weeks. Get to know how it works and spend some time basically doing your due diligence learning and getting an idea of how things work.”
Once you know how things work, you can create a blog for your business which will improve your search engine rankings and making it easier for customers to find you, she said.
2. Look for help online. Make a habit of visiting websites designed to help you get the most out of your social media efforts. Gunelius’ favorite site is www.socialmediaexaminer.com. Another helpful site is www.socialmediatoday.com.
3. Focus on long-term goals. Once you find a platform you wish to use, whether it is Wordpress, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, focus on long-term goals of building relationships, and creating quality content.
“The point of social media marketing is building relationships that turn into conversations, that turn people into brand advocates, who are going to go out and talk about your brand, and build that long-term, sustainable, organic growth that’s going to help your business thrive through any macro or micro environmental factor, whether it be a recession or anything like that,” she explained. “That long-term growth is what’s going to keep a small business in business for a long time.”
4. Follow the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time, focus on providing quality content to your customers. Twenty percent of your conversations can be self-promotional, she said. To illustrate, she said, if you meet a customer offline you can work to befriend them by talking and sharing information with them, or you can walk up and hand them a 20 percent off coupon, tell them to come to your store and leave.
“Which one are people going to respond better to?” she asked. “They might like that 20 percent off sale, but for that long-term sustainable growth, you have to be working more on building relationships and getting people to believe in your brand, your promise, what you stand for. They come to know what to expect from you and they know that you’re going to deliver on that promise in every interaction.”
5. Pick something you like. Choose a platform that appeals to you. If you are uncomfortable writing each day, then a blog on Wordpress might not be the best choice. Choose something you can use and have fun with.
“There are no barriers to entry for the social web,” she said. “So don’t be intimidated, get your feet wet. Before you put the face of your business out there on these accounts, play around with the tools.”
“The thing for small business owners, especially, if you’re the only one who’s doing your social media, is that you pick something you enjoy first,” she said. “You can always expand later. Ultimately, that should be your goal you want to surround people with your branded content so they can self-select how they want to interact with your brand, that’s your ultimate goal.”