co Social Media for Small Business Marketing, Do It Smart |

While social media is a great way to…socialize, small businesses can utilize this online marketing tool for so much more. But you’ve got to do it smart. Social media can also be a big time-waster if you’re posting that you’re having pizza for dinner, so here are a few tips to make sure you’re social media savvy.

How Businesses Approach Social Media:

1. Who is your online audience? Are you leaning toward your local market who will in turn, link you to their community friends? Are you looking to make professional contacts? You’ll approach each segment of the market differently, so define this before you open your online account.

2. Have a goal: How will you know if it’s worth the time and effort unless you have an idea of what you’d like to achieve? Are you going for contacts or sales? Is your focus to build your online presence and send traffic to your website? List at least three goals to start with and then create a plan of action.

3. Make a plan: Take a look at those goals and figure out how to achieve them. What online tools work best with your brand? Are you going to announce your podcasts? Streaming video? Promote a contest? Consider customer/client interaction at every turn. Encourage comments, questoins, and suggestions–and then respond. People like to know they’ve been heard.

The best way to figure all this out is to look at other companies who have already blazed the trail. The same principles that work for the big boys–or your competitors–might work for you. Go on a major social media site such as LinkedIn and look for companies you’re impressed with–what do their accounts look like? What’s new? How many people are responding regularly?

Innovative Ways Small Businesses Can Use Social Media:

Ask for customer opinion–have them name a new product or welcome their comments about your website or store design. Post photographs–and not necessarily of your dog–but do feature your products, or a star customer or employee. People like to know their input matters. Ask them to visit your LinkedIn profile the next time you email them or send out an e-newsletter and assure them their voice counts.

Offer helpful tips and advice on your social media site–but don’t go for the hard sell. Let it be a service to the community, and you can and should always list your website. Is there something you can add or change seasonally? Remeber to add fresh content.

Got a sense of humor? Humor goes a long way online, so share those crazy office antics, or link to YouTube if you find a great video to share (be sure to give attribution). Check out a public domain cartoon or joke site for fresh material that copyright free.

Contests and promotions are made for social media exposure. If you’re offering a great prize and you mention it on a social media site, it’ll get around. You can even create a scavenger hunt/”Where’s Waldo” dynamic by having them visit your website to gather clues in order to enter the contest. Clever way to get a hit, huh?

Social media for small businesses is a great tool–it offers exposure and networking possibilities. Do it smart by knowing your audience, having a goal, and making a plan.