Small businesses are discovering that not only is social media a powerful way to connect with customers, in many cases, it's a requirement for a marketing strategy that engages with your market.  At the same time, many small businesses struggle with finding the right strategy and tools to manage the ever-increasing world of social media.  With 78% of US internet users (according to Nielsen) engaging in at least 1 social network, figuring out a social media strategy that works for you is more important than ever.


Yet, as many small businesses venture into the waters of social media, they find it to be not only overwhelming, but often they end up doing more damage to their brand then good.  From 

1. Know Your Audience

Do you know who your audience really is?  Do you know which social networks they use?  Be sure that your business or organization is engaging in social media where your customers are.  It's important to know which social media networks actually allow you to reach your intended market.

Additionally, make sure you've clearly defined the type of content that makes sense for your audience.  The content you share, the photos you link, and the articles you post should be relevant to your target audience, or you run the risk of alienating the followers you've worked so hard to gain. 

2. Designate a Social-Media Czar

Every business & organization on social media, needs to have one person responsible for all of that company's interactions.  That doesn't mean that you can't have a team that helps engage with customers, or curate relevant content - but it does mean that you need to have one person who sets the tone, and guides the social media ship.  Ultimately, this person is responsible for making sure that every social media interaction represents that organizations goals, as well as their brand identity.

3. Be Consistent In Your Content

Whether you blog, or tweet, or share on Facebook, your content needs to be consistent with your brand.  In addition, consistency extends to the frequency you create, and share content.  Nothing says "anti-social" more than the twitter account that hasn't posted in 3 months, or the Facebook page with no activity this year.  Brands that consistently share content across their social media channels, and consistently engage in conversations with their customers, generate significantly more traffic across their online channels, and convert significantly more leads into customers.

4. Engage With Your Audience

If your social media strategy is all about pushing out information about your business, but fails to engage with your audience, don't be surprised if that audience doesn't stick around.  By far, the biggest benefit of social media to small businesses, is that it gives instant access to your market, and your customers.  

Every time you engage with your customers, you create an opportunity to deepen the connection they already have with your brand.  On the other hand, if you ignore all of your twitter followers when they @mention your business (for example), you alienate the connection they have with you and your brand.  People much prefer to have conversations, rather than be around the guy that can't seem to stop talking about himself long enough to listen to anyone else.  That's basically who you are when you fail to engage with your audience. 

5. Don't Hide From Feedback

If your business has customers, eventually it will have unhappy customers.  Social media has greatly increased the ability for your customers (happy and unhappy) to share their feelings and opinions with their circle of influence.  When this happens, don't ignore it.  Think of it as an opportunity to engage with, and often fix, whatever happened with that customer.  

Some of the very best brands on social media use it as a front line customer service tool - and their social media team is empowered to help fix customer problems.  Instead of sticking your head in the sand, social media is a great way to reinforce your commitment to your customers - even when they're less than satisfied.