As a small business owner, you surely know by now that social media must be included in any good business plan these days. But what, really, is social media and what does it mean for your business? The simple answer is that social media is a platform, a foundation of sorts, for online communications. It facilitates online interaction and the exchange of information for users of the Internet.
When you use social media, the content you create (on your website, for example) is shared with groups and communities online. It brings people together with common interests or questions. It is ever changing as new content is added or modified. The various applications that rest on the social media platform allow users and content creators to post questions and answers, write blogs, do podcasts and videos that can be shared, wiki-content, and just plain network for social or business purposes.
When you use social media as a marketing tool, you are making use of the most interactive and informative way businesses have ever been able to advertise and get their name out in the public forum. It is so versatile, you can literally obtain and retain customers from anywhere in the world depending on the products or services your offer. When it comes to local business growth, there is no better way to generate growth and additional traffic through your door than by working your way up the rankings of online search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. These giants in the search engine world even have offshoots like Google Places and Bing Maps that further focus on providing search listings geared to locality.
The better a small business can put search engines to work for them, the more business they will seriously generate as the online search results drive traffic to their business profile listing or website. The best thing to do is to look at social media as part of a whole-body business plan and understand what you want the end result to look like as well as what you can put into the effort. Do some research to understand what sites and forums your potential customers are already visiting – where they are already talking and what they are sharing. This will give you insight into where you need to be placing your content and showing your products or services to get you into the conversations that will make a difference.
There are so many outlets available now to incorporate into your social media efforts that you can be somewhat overwhelmed if you don’t have a plan and have some understanding of the time you can afford to give. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube – the list is exhaustive. And they don’t automatically talk to each other, so you are the piece that will pull it all together.
Ultimately, the one thing you want to make sure you take advantage of is local SEO (search engine optimization) through the big search engines mentioned above. Make sure you fill out your business profile, at a minimum. If you have a website, make sure to update your content and information regularly – you will definitely benefit from the results.