Small business owners usually have a very specific expertise, and personal service is part of their proposition to customers. So they are a natural for using blogging to show their expertise and social media to build a community of potential customers. This combination is already generating valuable business enquiries for many SMEs I know. However, most are time poor and don’t have the resources for an agency or a dedicated marketer, so have to run this activity themselves. Based on my own experiences, and those of small businesses I have worked with, here are seven simple steps to creating a practical strategy for social media marketing:
1. Understand your customer
Targeting is everything! Knowing who your prospective customer is, what problems they face and what questions they are seeking answers for, is crucial to focussing your marketing effort. Find out where they spend time online – eg by surveying your current customers, and focus on those platforms rather than getting seduced by the latest trend.
2. Look credible online
The ultimate destination for all online activity is your website, so it must be credible, reassure visitors of the quality of your product or service, and reflect your brand values. Any presence you have on the major social media sites needs the same degree of attention, with logical URLs, consistent branding and appropriate content.
3. Be a micro-publisher
You are a subject expert and your audience is a specific niche, so you need to think like a micro-publisher, understand the key questions your customers have and plan a publishing schedule that suits the seasonality of your business. Build up a bank of suitable content and work out when and where you want to publish it.
4. Build your network – and engage them
Small business thrives on referrals, so translate your personal network onto social platforms to expand your reach. Actively add new customers and contacts and solicit introductions. Your customers are likely to be part of a community of interest so will be highly interconnected. Post interesting content to get a response and the word will spread beyond your own contacts.
5. Market your content
Don’t rely on google searches for prospects to find your content. Market it actively to the audiences you have built up on social channels: don’t be afraid to post it in many places, using third party sites as well as facebook, linked-in and twitter. Create a schedule so you publish content regularly. And use it in your email newsletter.
6. Nurture your leads
Once people have shown an interest in your business by following, liking or connecting, reward them with useful content, special offers and ask questions. The more they engage the more likely they are to buy, and their interactions with you on social channels are visible to their contacts. Draw them into your email newsletter list so you can develop a deeper relationship.
7. Monitor and analyse
Check which sources are driving quality traffic with Google analytics, and monitor the most popular blog pages. Use Facebook insights and email stats to find out what content engages people so you learn what to write more about.
If you want to take the next step in your plan for blogging and social media, I’m running two workshops in Stamford as part of SKDC’s Enterprise Week. They provide practical tips on following all the seven steps above, plus plenty of examples of small businesses that are cleverly using social media and blogging to generate new business. The groups are small, just 6-10, so you get individual attention, and you can even bring your laptop to experiment as we go through. You’ll come away with useful checklists, and practical tips to run a social media strategy when time and budget are limited. There’s even an opportunity to get feedback on your own website and social media activity.
The workshops run 9.30am-12.30pm on Monday 12 September and Thursday 15 September. They take place at Orion House, Stamford, UK, PE9 2AE, and cost just £49 plus VAT including refreshments and notes to take away with you.
If you can’t make the workshops but want to stay in touch, join the Small Business Online Marketing network on Linked-in to swap ideas and tips with other small business owners.
Or follow Carolyn on twitter @carolynrmorgan
About the author: Carolyn Morgan is a digital marketing consultant who has launched her own b2b event using online marketing and social media, works with individual business owners on their digital marketing strategy and has run workshops for small business for the EbusinessClub, NWES and now SKDC.