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Social media – some pros (and cons) for business

social mediaYou have a business idea. You have established your website and you are all set up to get your first customers. It has taken a lot of hard work, which you know will continue. Why would you want to add to the pressures on your time by taking on social media accounts as part of your marketing strategy?

It is a good question. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram – all can become time-consuming and channels for procrastination as you become diverted from your core processes to check on the number of likes you have. But many very small businesses and start-ups have found the use of social media accounts vital to their success. So we thought we would post a few of the benefits of using social media, always recognising that you have to be disciplined and focused in your use of it. No watching videos of kittens and expecting sales to increase…

Social media can increase awareness of your ‘brand’. Even if you don’t think of yourself, as a sole trader perhaps, as a brand, you do need to be aware of how your business is perceived by your customers, actual and potential. Perhaps as a small business in Somerset, you don’t need the global reach of a social media account, but many local areas have very vibrant online communities based around social media platforms. The more people who know about you the better, and even if they aren’t local themselves they may have friends who need your services.

You can also use social media to keep in touch with existing customers, telling them about special offers, reminding them you are there and asking them to spread the word. You can answer questions and make them feel a bit special. Because they are.

Give your business a human face

Social media can add the personal touch – unless you have a particular reason for maintaining your anonymity, social  media can give your business a human face, and customers like to know the face behind the business. They don’t want to know all your private business (beware posting pictures of you getting drunk at the weekend for example) but it gives you the opportunity to share with people why your business is important to you.

Social media can really help with knowing how the market is moving  – it can help you find out more about what competitors are doing, what special offers are available and what is becoming more important for customers. The information is literally hot off the press – or the smartphone anyway. You can find out what your rivals are doing, and adopt strategies to make sure you keep up.

Speedy responses to new possibilities can also give you the opportunity to appear an industry expert. You don’t have to be a big player – if you see an article appropriate to your business, share a link, or comment on something a follower has posted. Ask questions, interact, and social media will get to know your name.

More and more people are turning to social media to identify products and services they need – Searching on the internet is now the way most people begin their hunt for a product or service, even if they aren’t quite sure what it is they need. The greater your presence on the www the greater likelihood there is in you coming up in a browser. Social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook often come out at the top of search rankings.

If you can learn to use social media wisely, it is great advertising – it can help you access the most appropriate audience and prevent you wasting time, and paper, handing information out to people who would never have been interested. Take a course to find out more about analysing the data available and how to find your market on social media. Many of the local courses are free. Think about how costly and potentially difficult it is to tell everyone about an event you are holding, perhaps a launch or a stand at a show. Advertising it on social media can really make a difference and if you don’t use the paid features available it costs you nothing.

Increases the opportunity for you to get people on to your website – website traffic is critical and if you add something really interesting to your website and share it on social media it has the potential to reach a wide audience. Think about adding a blog or news page to your website to keep content fresh and relevant.

There are downsides to social media and you have to make sure you don’t get involved in anything that could potentially damage your business. Avoid arguments, personal comments about individuals or criticisms of competitors. Stay positive, upbeat and sound enthusiastic about your business and social media can work well for you, however early it is on your business journey.

Don’t forget, you can always contact Cornerstone for advice from a mentor who has marketing experience.