Let Your Business Fly

No one wants to be a social outcast. Most want to belong to a community and that is what social media is all about—an online community of people sharing information.

A social media plan is about becoming involved in your industry’s online community, and just like any community, people talk to each other, make recommendations, and become known as experts in certain areas.

“The only time a small business owner shouldn’t engage in social media is if they have an inferior service and don’t want customers to talk about it,” says Andrés Cordero, Jr., who has an MBA in Marketing and helps businesses with their social media plans. “Encourage people to talk about your service and let your social media site become a research tool for your customers. For example, a customer may refer a potential customer to your Facebook page because of the helpful tips that you offer. You may be able to refer them to other companies who offer different products or services in the same industry.”

Cordero says that the main advantage is community building. “On the business side, we don’t make our buying decisions solely on the elaborate nature of a website or those types of high cost channels. When we make those decisions, we find someone who has used a vendor and if they are happy.”

He suggests that every small business develop a strategy, but to understand that you are not in control of the message when it comes to social media. “If you have customers who are willing to share with others through Facebook, Twitter or other sites, then it is a great testimonial and serves to expand your network.”

When it comes to building your Facebook and Twitter pages, you need to make sure that the content is relevant and useful to your customers and potential customers. If they perceive that you are providing them with a useful resource, then it usually leads to a sale. “If I’m comparing one vendor to the next, then it is easier to make a commitment to the one that has offered me something of value before I buy.”

Cordero offers these suggestions when developing a social media plan: know your audience, deliver content that is relevant and useful to customers not just sales content, and to send out three general, useful messages for every one sales message.

Know Your Audience

If you can identify your core audience and figure out what type of social media they use, then that is half the battle. If your older customers are not involved in some sort of social media, you will need to reach them through more traditional channels, such as a website, an email newsletter, or direct mail. For those customers under 50, social media is usually a good bet. But, the best way to find out is to ask. Contact some of your regular customers and ask them if they use social media, what kind, and how often they would want to receive messages from you. You might want to give them some choices, like twice a week, once a week, or once a month. This will clue you in to the frequency with which you can send them information. “You want to be top of mind with your customers, but not an annoyance,” says Cordero. “In a larger professional service, then you probably want to message once or twice a week.”

“Social media is all about one-to-one relationships,” says Cordero. “Your social groups and their relatives and friends become your audience.”

Deliver Relevant Content

When sending information, make sure it is relevant to their needs. “For every sales message you send out, post three general, useful messages that will help your audience,” says Cordero. “Allow employees to engage in conversation, and develop relationships with your customers.”

“The challenge really comes down to messaging,” says Cordero. “No one wants to receive sales messages all of the time. They will eventually block you off and then even if you are sending them helpful messages, then they won’t see them. Focus the content on what is helpful for them. If your customer is a nonprofit, they may be looking for new ways to access funding. By providing them with links for resources, you are helping them.”

Think about the emails you get from an office supply store. If you are getting them every day, then you may be deleting them without looking at them. You don’t want to have messages that are so frequent that your customers just start deleting them.

The more people you allow on the site, the more rich the experience will be for everyone there, which will attract more followers and potential customers. It also takes some of the pressure off of you to try and keep up with all of the content on the site.

Determine what goal you want to achieve through social media. If it is to build a community and become a subject matter expert so that more people turn to you when they need help, then Facebook may be the best social media avenue for you. If you have short messages to deliver to your customers, then Twitter might be your best bet.

“Choose one or two social media avenues and look over your efforts over the course of a year,” says Cordero. “Then when you move forward the following year, you can reassess or look at adding other social media channels.”

With a good social media plan, you can stop being a wallflower and help your business to flourish like a social butterfly.

Throughout his career, Andrés Cordero, Jr. has had experience in a variety of arenas in the public and private sectors, for entrepreneurial startups as well as larger organizations, and in a variety of industries, including non-profit fundraising, event management, Hispanic market and transportation research, publishing, economic development, and higher education support. The diversity of these experiences have provided him a wealth of understanding regarding the nature of organizational communication, constituency relations, business capture and sales, and marketing management.

Story by Jennifer Taylor