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Social Media Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

As a small business owner, especially in this economy, you’re probably struggling with limitations like financial resources, a lack of exposure, and not enough time in the day to get everything done. Taking on more responsibility or adding something else to the mix just sounds impossible, even though you know it’s absolutely vital to the success of your business.

For many small business owners, the thought of managing social media accounts is overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s take a look at why it’s beneficial and what tools and strategies can help your business.

How social media benefits your business: You know that it’s good for you but why? Social media takes time and effort. With little to no financial investments required, you can take advantage of some of the biggest social media tools out there.

Here are some of the immediate benefits:

  • Social media allows you to interact with your clients.
  • It allows you to connect with potential clients.
  • It gives you access to a global audience.
  • It allows you to build your image and your professional brand.

How to make time for social media: The great thing about social networks is that they are accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are of course peak usage times. However, you can still carve out time when you’re at home or have some down time.

You might think it’s hard to carve out time for your social media initiatives, however an hour per day makes all the difference. Check out this infographic by MarketMeSuite and Placester where 26% of small businesses were spending an hour or more on their social sites and the results they achieved.

What social media tools should you use: First and foremost, get a Facebook account and set up a Facebook business page. Facebook has over 1.1 billion users, and while that seems like an outrageous number to target, it’s still a great platform to build and grow your business.

Once you’re on Facebook, search for your competitors and evaluate their presence. What do their pages look like? How many likes do they have? Spend about 15 minutes per competitor and understand how each is making Facebook work and what you can use for your own page. Continue this practice on a monthly basis.

Next let’s look at Twitter. Twitter is something you can glance at on a lunch break and is pretty easy to maintain once you get the gist of it. BusinessWeek has also broken down some basic strategies for small business owners in their profile of 20 ways businesses use Twitter. Also, Twitter has their own guide for newbies. If you’re just starting out, spend 15-30 minutes on Twitter’s homepage doing a basic search of products offered by your business to see what’s out there, what’s being said about them and if any of your competitors come up. Just like Facebook, you can set up a Twitter business account, spy on your competitors and get some tips.

Once you become familiar with Twitter, remember to keep those searches handy and continue learning from them. Create private lists to monitor your competitors and public lists to monitors fans or other influencers you might want to reach out to to help you grow your business. The Twitter timeline moves fast so it’s OK to post a few items, stay engaged, and keep the fun going.

Should you add a blog to the mix? If anything, it’s a great way to add value, build some good Google juice, and a way for people to learn more about your business. It’s easy to set up a blog with tools like Tumblr and WordPress – they make it basically easy to get up and going with a few clicks and tweaks.

If you do decide to blog, make sure your content is geared toward your audience. Decide the focus of your blog, figure out what you’ll be writing about, create a content calendar, and most importantly, stick to it! While you’re at, participate in other industry blogs. Show your expertise by identifying 2-3 blogs in your industry that you want to focus on, comment on, and possibly be a guest author. All of this builds your exposure. To get some motivation, check out Technorati’s list of Top 100 Small Business Blogs.

To get the word out faster, consider listing your business on Bing, adding your business to Google Maps, and creating Yelp and Foursquare accounts. People love something they can search for, check in to, and ultimately leave a review of. You can use Foursquare and Yelp to promote your business by offering promotions or discounts like a free appetizer upon check-in.  All of these sites allow you to upload photos to help promote your business and list a URL that directs traffic to your website.

The bottom line: Social media can be a phenomenal marketing channel for small businesses. All it takes is a little time up front and some maintenance in between to keep those channels operating properly and working for you. Got some small business tips and tools? Share them with us on Twitter at @viralheat.

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