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How to Make Social Media Work For Your Business

by: | December 13, 2011

If you’re a small business owner still struggling to integrate social media into your company’s marketing efforts, then you’re not alone—in fact, roughly two-thirds of SMB owners express the same concerns and confusion, according to a new survey issued by business intelligence firm Social Strategy1 and online entrepreneurial community OfficeArrow. Sixty-seven percent of SMB respondents indicate reluctance to invest in social media, revealing that they simply don’t know where to begin—51 percent fear sharing sensitive information, 50 percent state there are too many social media opportunities to manage and 44 percent fear “information overload.”

One in four small business owners admit to hating social media.

Another recent survey, this one conducted by digital marketing company iContact, finds that one in four small business owners admit to hating social media, with comments ranging from the relatively benign: “It seems like an enormous time commitment” to the condescending: “It has nothing to do with the merit of the business, but who can manipulate the system.” Respondents to the iContact study reserved much of their fury for Twitter. While 54 percent of SMBs love the microblogging platform, the remaining 46 percent loathe it—firms with fewer than 25 employees heaped the most scorn on Twitter, indicating that small businesses are still grappling with how to find time to tweet while staying on top of other day-to-day responsibilities.

It’s easy to assume that many entrepreneurs are technophobes—that their dislike of social media marketing stems from a larger mistrust toward digital communications. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Social Strategy1/OfficeArrow survey reveals that 73 percent of small business owners access social networks on smartphones or other mobile devices, suggesting not only a strong level of comfort with the mobile web and/or native social networking applications but also a genuine interest in social media interactions.

“Small businesses need a playbook to proceed in social media,” says Social Strategy1 president and chief intelligence officer Steve Ennen in a statement—maybe so, but those SMBs who are already actively using and accessing social channels on their phones and desktops also should trust their own instincts, applying lessons and insights from their personal interactions to their professional outreach efforts. Got a Facebook friend who shares too much or follow a Twitter feed with no substance? Keep those examples in mind when you update your company’s social media account, and deliver valuable information only as circumstances warrant.

Other recommendations from Social Strategy1:

  • Find your customers online. Social media doesn’t begin and end with Facebook and Twitter. Identify the other consumer-centric sites where your customers are commenting, linking and sharing content—e.g., Yelp.
  • Set up to listen. Leverage social media not only to broadcast updates about your company but also to absorb feedback and intelligence about your customer base. The subjects consumers address on social platforms offer a window into what they want and expect from the businesses they patronize.
  • Emphasize customer service. Catalog positive and negative comments to track what’s working and what isn’t—not just with your company, but also with your rivals and across your vertical as a whole. Pinpoint the most glaring issues, consider approaches to automating those tasks and communicate your progress to your social media audience.

See—that’s not so scary, now is it?Marketing Zeus

Posted in: Analytics, B2C, Branding, Campaign Development, Content, Facebook, Mobile Matters, Social Coupons, Social Networks, Twitter, Video

About the Writer:

Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of the FierceMobileContent and FierceDeveloper e-newsletters as well as a regular contributor to Entrepreneur magazine and the website All Music Guide. Additional credits include efforts for publications including Rolling Stone, Wax Poetics and No Depression, along with liner notes for a number of album releases. He lives in Chicago.

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