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Harness the Power of Social Media

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According to Nielsen, nearly half of all Internet users consult social media before making a purchase.  For small businesses, acknowledging the power of social media is an important first step and using that power will help move your business forward.

Liana Ling, an expert in social media and digital marketing offered the following insights in the Toronto Star on October 20, 2015.

Q.. Why do small businesses struggle to stay on top of social media?

A..  The majority are completely overwhelmed!  They're busy with their business and don't have the time to research and educate themselves.  They also don't know what they don't know, what's available and how the various platforms work

Q.  Why should a small business invest their limited time and resources into social media?

A.  You need to go where your customers are!  Look at the growing number of Canadians who are online and the amount of time they spend there.  There is no longer any small businesses whose target markets are not having some kind of conversation on social media

Q.  How can a social-media profile help a business succeed?

A.  Social media increases awareness of your brand[-who you are and what you do-in an economical and targeted way.  It can also be a tool for recruiting the right employees, either by using your network to let people know about jobs or by appealing to your customers.  It's also a good way to let your customers and future employees know more about your business and culture.

Q.  There are so many social-media platforms:  Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc.  How should a business decide which platforms to utilize?

A.  First you need to analyse who your customers are, who you want to reach and then find out where that demographic hangs out on-line.  Focus on those social media networks first and master one before moving on to the others.  If your target market is boomers, for instance, you might choose to master Facebook first, and then move on to Twitter and LinkedIn, as opposed to the newer forms of social media such as Snapchat or Blab.

Q.  How important is design?

A.  Social media is very visual, but you don't have to hire an expensive designer to produce professional looking content.  There are some excellent free resources out there, like the graphic design tool Canva, which offers easy-to-use templates.

Q. Is there a risk for a business to come on too strong?

A.  Yes, social media is all about being social, but you don't want to be so overwhelming that it's too much.  You want to meet new people, and your goal should not be to simply sell them on your company or your product.  You need to get to know them and build a relationship.  You need to offer them something that is of value in their life, whether letting them know about an upcoming sale or offering them relevant information.  This builds trust and creates an interest. 

Q.  How do you know if you need help with your social media?

A.  Think about the hours needed to engage and monitor your social media presence, as well as to research and create social-media content and measure the results.  You might be able to handle it yourself if you're comfortable online- have an understanding of social-media strategies and have the time to follow through.  But some markets may require you to post updates several times daily and there's a lot of creativity and strategy involved in using social media to generate leads or find good employees.  If you don't have the time or the knowledge to do it well, you should think about finding a social media consultant to partner with, who understands your business.