Social networks are like little windows...
The way that I often describe social networks to our clients is that they are like little windows into businesses. When you are first starting out, and no one yet knows about you - or even when you are established and you need to broaden your audience - social networks can be an invaluable way of introducing your company to your community, fellow businesses, and, well, the world.
Advertising can be so great if you hit the right places, but so often I hear of people regretting the big hole that they have gouged out of their tiny small-business budget, having invested it in expensive advertising that has turned up little result. So, unless you are sure that you have found a really great platform to advertise on, I would say that social networking is a fantastic tool to use for the exact same purpose - and it is free!
The other reason that I think social networks are great, lies in the name itself - it is sociable and it is a great networking platform. It can get quite lonely, running your own business, and I really think there is a lot to be said for being linked up on these platforms, for this very reason alone. Even if you are not actually in dialogue with anyone, it can really help to read what other people are up to during their day, and in their businesses. It enthuses you - energises you - and really develops your business skills. There are so many ideas, there is so much support, and so many sources of inspiration to be found on them.
It is however very daunting to get into social networking when you are so new to it - I know this - but once you have bagged a few good pointers, it really is easy - and if it doesn't end up paying off for you, there is absolutely nothing in the way of you stopping.
Make them work for and not against you...
This is one of the major hindrances with social pages I think - they are high maintenance. After all, they are an ongoing means of communication between you and your audience, and so your readers will expect regular updates and dialogue from you.
I think that everyone that has had social pages for their businesses, will have experienced a time where they felt that it was taking up too much of their day. I myself have felt this way. The real secret is to schedule your time on them, and stick to it - if you do this from the very beginning, you will not only find them easier to use, but your posts will have far more substance to them.
A good rule of thumb would be to schedule, say, 10 minutes 3 times a day to spend on your pages like Facebook and Twitter. During this time, you can create posts, and keep in touch with other pages / companies / people that you are linked up with. As for your blog, checking it once a day would suffice, to respond to any comments on your posts, and to keep up to date with other blogs that you are following.
Speaking of blog posts, these are things that can take up huge chunks of your time all by themselves, but it is important that you try to stick to regular blogging - your audience will appreciate the consistency and it helps them to know when to expect a new post, which is how you are going to gain regular readers.
Releasing a new blog post once a week is sufficient - and sometimes more often if you can. Once a week is easy enough to fit in, and at your busiest times, you can easily schedule your post writing to be done at the end of a day or during an evening, so that it is not interfering too much with your working day. Remember that the point of your blog is to enjoy it!
Lastly, at the end of every week, it is good practice to review your statistics, in order to keep check on how your Facebook page and your blog is performing.
Achieving a strong social presence is key...
There is a whole load of information that I could give you on this topic - it is a minefield - but here are some staples for creating a strong social presence...
• Do implement your brand carefully and consistently across your social pages.
- Both visually in the design and physically in the names that you give to your pages.
• Do make use of filling out all of the information in your profiles.
- Blank / half filled out information fields won't cut it!
• Don't get too personal.
- There is a fine line between showing your personality and being unprofessional.
• Do use proper English.
- The use of slang, bad language and slack punctuation just looks unprofessional.
• Don't bad mouth other people, including your customers.
- You never know who is reading it, and it just isn't necessary.
• Do think about your brand when posting.
- Certain things may reflect negatively on your company.
• Do support other people and businesses.
- This is how you make important connections and build relationships.
• Don't only use your pages to advertise yourself.
- Your audience will tire of this stiff, corporate approach.
If you haven't already connected with us on Facebook or Twitter, then head on over to our pages here and here - it would be great to see you over there! If you have any tips of your own that you think might benefit others, then please do leave them in the comments box!