For most small and medium businesses there is no need to be constantly tweeting and sharing photos like celebrities. Much of the time it is sufficient to be present, to watch what is being said and to participate in the discussions from time to time. Just like a few pencil lines can evoke a picture, a few well-chosen posts can give the impression of a solid social media presence. But concretely how should a small business get started?
Start By Just Being There. In social media just like in many other places simply turning up brings a noticeable return. Begin by creating an account and profile page on several top social sites including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, with the addition of Instagram and Pinterest if you have interesting photos to share and YouTube if you have video content. Initially all you need to do is to create profile pages with a photo, a brief description, contact information and a link to your website. This presence is very important for two reasons. First of all it ensures that you will have a more solid presence in Google searches -- social media sites are highly ranked by Google so these profile pages are more important than they might appear. This social presence also blocks other people from creating accounts with your name. Social sites like Twitter allocate user names on a first-come-first-served basis so that if there are two companies called Acme the first to register gets the username. Don't ever let anyone be first with your brands.
Continue by Starting to Listen. Once you have a basic social presence start to monitor activity around your name, your company, your brand, your technology and your field. Again this is easier than it might appear. You don't need to spend all day watching rows of monitors like they do in social media war rooms. In fact you don't need to look at all. The best way is to set up alerts using Google or tools like If This Then That so that you get notified on your phone when there is something interesting. At the very least you will be aware of what people are saying about you and your business.
Begin to Participate in Conversations. When you start to monitor social activity you will see posts that you would like to respond to. Thanks to the alert you will know when there is something interesting to respond to and if you install mobile apps like Twitter on your mobile you will be able to respond immediately. It's also possible to post news through your social channel using tools like Hootsuite that allow you to schedule publication in advance. The advantage of this is that you can schedule all the routine posts at the beginning of the week and then stop thinking about it. There is no need to be constantly posting, monitoring or responding, so that with a very modest effort you can build a satisfactory low-profile presence that will bring many benefits.
Just by following these three steps any small business can begin to benefit from the advantages of using social media but with a minimal effort and no budget. You don't need a PR company and you don't need a full-time community manager, though you do need someone who has learned how to use social media safely, but that's a story for another post. Watch this space!
This post is one of a series that was inspired by a short lecture that I delivered at the Future of Swedish and Danish Life Science conference at the Medicon Village in Lund, 8 April 2015.
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