I recently spoke at a little breakfast meeting of a 100 people or so and I knew that the economy was still being unkind to small business owners. I knew they were still trying to wrestle with the alternative options that social media might provide. But coupled with wrestling whether to make the leap or not, was the notion that commitment to social media is labor intensive. They already wear a lot of hats and now they have to somehow integrate social media?
So I thought it might be prudent to provide 5 simple suggestions on what an SMB can do right now to become part of that conversation. Yes, there will always be a learning curve, but we have to start somewhere and then build from that.
1) Get a Twitter account. Beyond just having a Twitter account that’s not doing much, learn how to use it to your advantage. Why? because you want to be able to monitor and listen to conversations about you, your product, your company, your industry, your customers and your competition. You can listen for opportunity and you can use Twitter as an ad hoc arm of customer service and reputation management.
How do you do all that- You use a 3rd party application like Tweetdeck which allows you set up individual columns for each of the above mentioned. The good news? In theory if you don’t want to have conversations, that will not prevent you from mining valuable data. The other good news? You don’t have to sit there and wait for it to unfold. You can peel back the tweets to your hearts content! This might take less than an hour to set up. Even less if you already an account.
2) Create a Facebook page. I know, you’re probably thinking, “you’ve got to be kidding me”? Well you know what? I bet you already have a Facebook page anyway right? So what makes this any different? What…? That it’s for work? Given that businesses can now create vanity URL’s on Facebook you have a great opportunity to grow your business using basic Facebook features for as little as an hour a day. Most of you have a customer base and there is a good chance that some of them are loyal. Facebook allows for you to connect with your customers. At the least it allows you to promote offers, ask questions and engage your customers. Setup is minimal. About an hour.
3) Create a Linkedin profile. Again, you should have one of these anyway but there are some cool little features buried in Linkedin that can help you network with like minded professionals, look for new resources and partners, connect with current and past work colleagues and if need be, look for a new job. Pay particular attention though, to the Question/Answer section of Linkedin. There is some gold in that thar section. Set up time 2 hours but once it’s done, you’re done.
4) Now link your Twitter account to Facebook and link you Twitter updates to LinkedIn so that all of your twitter updates, if you do them, will flow across all of your networks. If you ever feel so compelled to contribute, converse, share or become part of the conversation, you’ll only have to do it once and everyone in those 3 networks that are part of “your network” will see it. This might seem a but complicated, but it’s not, you just need to check out those links. Time it takes? An hour
5) Now go to your website and put these 3 links or icons to these social sites on your website. Make sure that they are prominent so that people that may be looking for you and what you may offer can find them. The point is we want to make sure that we are providing as many ways as we can for customers and prospects to talk to us. They are your lifeblood and THEY are using social networks with or without you. Get in the game. It may take you an hour.
Now here’s the last thing. Even if you are not an “A” personality and you’re somewhat passive. You still have relationships with your close friends and relatives, right? What do those conversations and relationships consist of? Are they about what you had for breakfast? Perhaps, but there is so much more to them. And the reason they are your friend in the first place, is because you are interesting and you have something in common with that person. You both are exchanging and sharing value. Guess what? the same holds true in social networks. Value begets value. Even if your not a content machine like a Chris Brogan, you can still carve out a niche for you and your company.
Now go get ’em.
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