1. Plan Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
As with any small business marketing campaign or business strategy, you have to create a plan and stick to it in order to be successful. Outline the goals and the steps you will take -- in addition to the tools you will need -- to meet your marketing objectives.
2. Find Your Customers
With so many social networking platforms available to consumers, it can be difficult to choose a social network for your business to use. I recommend Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube to start with. You can also research to find out where your customers already congregate online. You might find some specialized sites to join in addition to the big four.
3. Schedule Social Time
Once you become a social resource for customers you have to stick with it and be there on a regular and frequent basis. Using social networks is time consuming, so schedule social media posting time for yourself and your internal or outsourced employee.
4. Be Authentic and Human
People are more likely to create relationships with other people more so than with businesses. You can encourage customers if you use a "human" voice -- not a corporate presence -- when connecting in social spaces. You can do a few simple things like show a picture instead of a business logo on your profile, and assign one or two people within your small business to be your social voice.
5. Be an Expert
One of the best ways for a small business to interact with customers is to be an expert in social spaces. By joining existing communities where your customers are, you can easily insert yourself into the community by being a voice of expert advice. For example if your small business is plumbing hardware, find those online social communities on Facebook, Twitter, discussion forums and blogs and start answering questions and offering advice.
6. Learn to Listen
It's easy to fall into the "broadcast trap" where you spend too much time talking about how great your products are or how fabulous this week's sale is. In a social network you have to stop broadcasting and listen to what your customers have to say. People use social networks to converse, and the best way to build a strong social relationship with a customer is to be a "friend" who can listen.
7. Be Social
A small business also needs to demonstrate good conversation skills -- after all responding to people is the best way to show you are listening. The point of a social network is to converse, and customers will get bored very quickly if you don't participate in the social flow. You can demonstrate good listening skills and boost participation by responding directly to questions and comments in a timely fashion.
8. Respond Often
Successful social media marketing depends on your own ability to respond to customers in a timely fashion. You want to show customers that you are a "reliable friend," so stay active and participate in all conversations related to your company or area of expertise. If you see new questions or comments, be sure to answer immediately.
9. Provide Value
You'll find that just your own conversation and participation is not enough to keep a continued interest in your social network. There has to be value in the interaction for people, and you will need to provide the reason for people to stay and participate in your social network.
10. Offer Exclusivity
Your social network should not just be about deals, but there is nothing wrong with making your fans, friends and followers feel special. One way to do this is to offer rewards or promotions exclusively to social networking customers.
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