Social media for small businesses

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Courtesy of Kiwano Marketing

This week, I did some preliminary research for a small business that is making its first tentative steps into social media. It’s an exciting yet scary place to be for companies, especially ones not used to having their customers commenting, scrutinizing, and literally following their every move. Done properly, it can launch a product or service into that all-powerful symbol of Internet stardom, 'going viral.' Social media gone wrong, however, may have quite the opposite effect on sales and, most importantly, online reputation.

My future posts on this topic will be predicated on one assumption: social media is quickly becoming THE marketing territory of choice for small businesses and start-ups. Companies without huge marketing budgets appreciate all that social media has to offer: open registration, user-friendly interfaces, and low or zero operating costs. Instead of spending money going to where your audience might be, you entice your potential customers to willingly seek you out through the best kind of publicity: word-of-mouth.

To Get Us Started, A Down-to-Earth Definition

What, then, should small businesses do when they’re beginning to explore this valuable resource? Instead of focusing on the usual starting point— 'what is Social Media?'— I’m going to take a slightly different approach. Part of Wikipedia’s definition reads, '[a]t its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content.' If you dig deeper on that page, or any other primer the subject, you'll quickly find that it all gets more complicated and technical from there.

I think this has contributed to the reason why businesses may be hesitant to take the plunge. Understanding the value of social media, however, does not have to come in the form of something that reads like a textbook. One of the best, down-to-earth explanations I've found comes in the form of an engaging little video on YouTube.

So, for now, let’s skip the definition and focus on what really drives businesses forward— action.

Kiwano Tip #1: Control Your Content

Every day, it seems, there is a new discovery on how the social media engine can be applied to businesses. Because the field is still relatively new, set standards and procedures have yet to materialize. Before you go launching your company on twitter, however, there are some issues that must be addressed.

Know Yourself: Just as professionals have gotten into trouble from careless photos or remarks on their Facebook profile, so it is doubly important that as a business, you must critically consider content that you will be sharing with your audience. All of that generated traffic, after all, will be directed back as curious viewers on your webpage. Are your website and corporate profiles upholding your company's reputation? For more on the common pitfalls of social media, read Geraldine Eliot's article on the common pitfalls of your online presence.

Selective Sharing: Companies must stay relevant to their industry when broadcasting on social media. Audiences are already saturated with too much information to read and digest, and most of them will not take the time to sift through 20+ tweets a day. Instead, they will simply leave and find their sources elsewhere. In order to stay on-topic, keep your sharing concise, helpful, and relevant. Your followers will come to appreciate you as an expert source of insightful and filtered topics. Unlike print campaigns of the past, consumers are increasingly aware of the quality of content they subscribe to online— and smart small businesses will jump aboard to fill this niche.

And now I turn the floor over to you. What other key questions do small businesses consider when opening up to customer interactions? What concerns are you thinking about before starting on your own feed? Give me a shout at and I’ll be taking on some of your questions later this week to formulate more social media tips from Kiwano Marketing.

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