So, you decide to start using social media for business. You set up an account or two – maybe even half a dozen…
The promised magic didn’t happen. You were broadcasting to a vast emptiness. Perhaps you ran out of things to say.
Either way, you come to the conclusion that social media is not worth the time and effort and stopped.
And, now you’re left with the social media ghost town, which is just as bad – if not worse than not being social in the first place.
Think about it.
You have a sign in your window or a line in your ads declaring, “Find us on Facebook”.
The perils of using social media for business
Let’s burst a little bubble regarding the whole “Find us on Facebook” thing. Have you ever tried finding anything on Facebook – let alone a local business – without a full web address or a link? Trust me it’s not that easy and much quicker to use Google…
We’ll assume someone has the patience of a saint and finds your local business Facebook page. What are they met with? A post from 6 months ago and then nothing…
It shows you don’t care, you don’t meet your promises. Quite simply, it doesn’t inspire any trust and is bad for business.
It’s the same for any abandoned social profile.
Here’s another bubble burst.
Using social media for business needs commitment, resources and strategy.
It’s not an overnight thing, definitely not set and forget.
I’ll get another piece of bad news out of the way. Internet use studies (in the US) have shown that when it comes to local businesses, people use search engines not social media to find information.
Restaurants, bars and clubs:
51% turn to the internet, including:
- search engines – 38% rely on them
- specialty websites – 17% rely on them
- social media – 3% rely on social networking sites or Twitter
Other local businesses:
47% say they rely most on the internet, including:
- search engines – 36% rely on them
- specialty websites – 16% rely on them
- social media – 1% rely on social network sites or Twitter
Given that so many of us are on at least one social network, this may be surprising. My thoughts are:
- Social media search is often clunky and ineffective. They’re social sites not search engines, so it’s difficult to find what you are looking for on-site anyway
- Local businesses don’t have a huge presence on social media for the information to be found in the first place
But it’s not all bad news.
We know people use social media on a huge scale. This infographic shows UK stats collected by Umpf (published in September 2011 before Google Plus Pages).
We also know that email still wins the online race, far out pacing Facebook and Twitter active users put together.
Does all that mean you shouldn’t be using social media for business?
I’ve said many times on this blog that as a bear minimum, providing social sharing buttons on your content is a must.
Search and social will continue to intertwine to the point one won’t live without the other. It’s already started on Google.com where Google Plus heavily influences the search results.
Points to remember before you start using social media for business…
A local business often has limited time and resources. Before diving in at the deep end, take a some time to develop your online strategy.
Have your own website.
Social media profiles should not be seen as a replacement for your own website. Your website is the only place where you own and control the information you provide.
It is your online hub and all roads should lead back to your website.
Add social share buttons to every page.
Use your website to grow your email subscribers and host your blog on the same domain – remember the hierarchy? Email, search, social.
Claim your Google Places page
Goes without saying… If you want your business to be found online locally, get that map marker working for you.
Claim your Google Plus Profile and Business Page
You may not want “social” presence but Google are slowly but surely taking that choice away.
Then choose which social media platform has the best potential for your business.
- Where do your current customers spend time online?
- Where does your ideal customer spend time?
There are hundreds of social media sites out there, far more than the big three – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
If your business is very visual – a photographer or fashion designer, you may find sites like Tumblr or Pinterest useful to expand your reach
A local restaurant could take advantage of the geo-location networks like Foursquare to encourage repeat business.
Don’t overwhelm yourself, choose one social media site and give it a good run. It takes time to get established.
Are you using social media for business? How’s it going for you? Tell us about it in the comments.