20 tips on social media for small business

How can small businesses get value out of social media?  On 21 March I attended the online marketing conference organised by @ebizclub in Nottingham and was impressed with the quality of speakers. I’ve summarised my top 20 takeaways from the day below; find more snippets on #omce2011 or follow these speakers on twitter.  The overall theme was that businesses should behave on social media as they would in real social situations.

1. Stay in the kitchen (@grahamjones GJ) – human beings like to socialise above all else.  At parties they stay in the kitchen as it feels like the place to be.  Online social networks are like the kitchen; it’s hard to tempt them from there to the lounge where your website is.  So get chatting to your customers where they want to be.

2. Mavens make most profit (GJ) – Companies who use many social channels and update them frequently (ideally daily!) generate more revenue, and the benefits outweigh the costs of the extra investment

3. Daily blogs generate most leads (GJ) – small businesses updating blogs and social media daily get the lowest cost per new lead.

4. Social media = digital dialogue (DK @mediasnackers) – focus on conversations not marketing, and use to build relationships.  Give your brand a human face; you’re selling to people, not companies.

5. Talk about process not product (DK) – people are more interested in how you did it rather than what you did.

6. Measure outcomes not output (DK) – don’t obsess about what and how often you publish on social media, work out what difference it makes.

7. Play first (DK) – the best way to understand each social media channel is to experiment with it before jumping in.  Think about each channel as a room full of real people.

8. Be engaging rather than set out to build engagement (DK) – share interesting content, paraphrase and add value; get attention by being useful and giving people something to talk about rather than trying to sell.

9. Mistakes are public, but solving them creates advocates (@andrewgrill AG) – social media means unhappy customers can share problems, but if you admit them and offer a solution they will tell more people.

10. Mobile is VERY personal (AG) people don’t share their phone, and find ads highly intrusive

11. Mobiles capture the moment (AG) – Mobile devices are there at the moment of creative impulse.  Social media and mobile can create a toxic mix as instant negative feedback – but can capture positive thoughts too.

12. Watch the  geolocation services (AG) – slow take-up of foursquare and facebook places as yet – but worth monitoring as provide lots of data.

13. Peer advocacy is powerful (AG) – consumers are placing more weight on recommendations from people online even if have never met

14. Content quality will count for more (@ianlockwood IL) – Google updates mean poor quality or copied content will be penalised and links from article sites less valuable, so creating original quality content will be key.

15. Paid links risk penalties (IL) – Google can’t spot paid links, but will penalise offending sites so it’s a risky strategy.

16. Social influences search ranking (IL) – Google will start to measure amount of sharing and authority of retweets for your content.  So quality, fresh content shared by others will help search results.

17. Internet now is your business (GJ) – what you do online is central to marketing your business; all other activity has to fit in to this

18. Tailor message to platform/ audience – adopt a different tone or style for Linked-in, Facebook and twitter.

19. Your brochure site is the end of the conversation (GJ) – your own website won’t generate leads; they come from social spaces – but it helps with conversion as place to check credibility: are you a real business.

20. Under 25s blur work and personal life (GJ) – see no barrier between personal social network and work persona; it’s just the older generation who like to have a division.  On facebook can have a business page and a private personal profile.

If you were at the conference and think I’ve missed something, do comment below.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan works with media organisations to create practical digital media and marketing strategies. She applies her digital publishing  knowhow to advise small businesses on how to create a winning online content strategy.  Find out more at www.penmaen.media or follow @carolynrmorgan on twitter.