How Small Businesses Can Win at Social Media

by Debbie Schaeffer

I find that Social Media for LOCAL businesses is still in its infancy. Many businesses feel that it is too much work and do not see the benefits. Those of us that are in it - yes it does take work - but the field is constantly changing and growing and becoming more techno-savvy so by participating and constantly learning, we will be way ahead of those that join in later.

Here are some tips from my experience with social media:

Social Media Presence
I belong to Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp and YouTube and I have a blog on my business site. On your blog or website you should have all the icons to these sites linking back to them. They should be positioned where they can be easily seen. I see many sites with the buttons on the bottom of the page and you don't even notice them.

Facebook
Not only should you have a personal page but you must have a business page. There are approximately 120 people on my business page that do not follow me personally. Most of the people are customers and not necessarily personal contacts. It's important to share news and events, announce sales, show customers' before and after photos, talk about expert solutions, and more.  This gives you another opportunity to turn up in search engine results. 

The common question is how to get people to "like" your business page.  You need to be proactive to ask people especially if you are a local business. Always ask! If you don't, then they won't know your page exists.  Then, you can add the Facebook button on any online communication you have whether it's a website or email newsletter.

Linkedin
This is a great example of using social networking for making B2B connections. Many people who are on Linkedin are not on Facebook so you don't have to worry about repeating your message in multiple places.  Linkedin allows you to describe your business as well as explain your position.  You only have so many words you can post an update but its a great way to keep people up to date with sales, events and great info. I get more feedback from Linkedin post than any other site. It's a good idea to join groups, but be prepared to spend time joining in the conversation.

Twitter
I have two accounts. One for me and the store (@DebbieSchaeffer @Mrs_Gs)

Yes it is very cool to have a ton of followers but if you are a local business and your customers are local, having a follower from California or the UK doesn't help if you are looking to gain more customers. However, the beauty of Twitter is that you can follow experts in your field, I follow the CMO of Best Buy. I also follow all my brands who have Twitter accounts. I love to "retweet" and be the first on my block to announce something big. For example, JD Power & Associates recently announced that Wolf is the #1 range, but I was the first to tell my Wolf rep. It felt good!

Foursquare
This sight is getting more popular everyday. People leave tips about a business or restaurant, offering great feedback to potential customers and the business managers as well.  As a business owner, you can place special deals and coupons for people who "check in" to your location.  I have also created a Foursquare profile and venue for my upcoming 75th anniversary gala. When guests arrive, they can "check in" and leave tips for an opportunity to win fun prizes.  There are many ways to entice customers to interact with you or your business with Foursquare.  However, like Facebook Pages, you need to encourage people to "check in" through your various communication channels both online and in person.

YouTube
For a year I knew I needed to do more video but I just didn't know how to get started. As cameras have become more sophisticated and smaller, creating a video is easier than ever. But it wasn't until I went to a local Social Marketing Seminar on YouTube that I said now is the time to just do it!  I'm far from a natural in front of the camera, but I keep trying. I created a mrsgs.tv page which will contain all my videos and it will link to the main page of my business site. Consumers prefer to watch a video than read - look how great Old Spice is doing with their video campaign.


Debbie Schaeffer is the 3rd generation female business owner of Mrs. G TV & Appliances in Lawrenceville, NJ.  She is a nationally recognized leader among women in consumer electronics and has become known among colleagues and vendors as a social media maven. Visit her store, read her blog, and watch some video at www.mrsgs.com.

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