For small businesses, it can be difficult to maintain an online presence. Although most small businesses lack a dedicated communications team, Chris Conrath, a teacher in Centennial College’s Corporate Communications program, explains that small businesses maintain an advantage over corporations because they are part of a community. So how can you exercise this advantage in your business?
The first step in any social media endeavour is to plan. The purpose of having a presence on social media is to bring customers in to your store. To do this, set goals for what you hope to achieve. How many new customers do to want to bring in over what span of time? Conrath tells us that the best way to maintain a successful presence is to establish who is in charge of posting updates to your social networks. Often, small businesses make the mistake of setting up a Twitter page, for example, and giving multiple people access. “[This strategy] works for a while and then it sort of fades out,” says Conrath, because people will get busy and assume others will tweet even if they aren’t. When everyone assumes someone else will do it, no one does it.
To execute your social media plan, it’s important to know the demographics of your clientele. Who is likely to be interested in the services you provide? In the case of Blue Cross Animal Hospital(BCAH), a veterinary clinic in Toronto’s Danforth area, Janet Taylor, the woman in charge of their communications and social networking, knows that she is targeting people who own pets. In order to engage people with pets Taylor posts animal pictures, notices of lost pets in the area, and information about animal hazards. BCAH realizes the importance of their online presence, “we want to enhance the community we already have, which is our existing clients and their pets. We want to bond them to the practice, we want to make them feel like they’re part of our community, because they are,” Taylor says. In order to stay on message, Conrath explains that it’s always a good idea to employ a second set of eyes before you post anything. Get a co-worker to give you a second opinion on what you are planning to post so that you don’t alienate your clients by accident.
Social networking takes time away from your physical business, so make sure that time is an investment upon which you get a return.
“Try to have a call to action that you can track … such as a coupon or a discount,” says Conrath. If you have something on your social networks that must be redeemed in store, you can easily measure how many people who view you online are actually coming in to the store.
Social networking as a small business is hard, but can also be very rewarding. If you have a solid plan in place, execute it well, and are able to track its success, social media is a powerful tool to bring in new clients and to connect with the local community.
Photo taken from commonseoquestions.com