You may have heard about the benefits of implementing social media in your small business. While many of the benefits are real and certainly achievable, you need to understand both sides of the story before embarking on any mission.
Today, we highlight some social media pointers that aren’t often mentioned.
Effective Social Media Costs Money
The social media efforts by companies such Nokia and RIM offer an excellent testament -- and inspiration -- as to how social media can bring about heightened visibility and brand recognition. However, small business owners and managers must understand that these companies allocate millions of dollars to pay PR agencies and digital marketers to make it happen.
Generally speaking, sending out the occasional tweet about a new product is not considered a good example of social media engagement -- and it could well backfire if you don’t attend to queries and legitimate responses in a timely manner.
What we’re trying to say is that you can't expect your social media initiative to take off without allocating the proper resources or manpower to it. Done properly though, the benefits are obvious; the judicious use of social networks can result in a level of engagement and brand loyalty that is literally off-the-charts compared to results from traditional marketing initiatives.
Make Use of Social Media Tools
While the default Web-based interfaces provided by the various social media networks will work, a better option may be to leverage the use of dedicated tools to manage social interactions in a more efficient and timely manner.
These may range from entry-level (and free) products such as TweetDeck and the RockMelt browser to more advanced social networking tools that incorporate analytical and monitoring components, such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social. The latter tools typically support multiple networks, and they can also generate detailed reporting to help measure the effectiveness of outbound messages.
Finally, management tools such as CoTweet help smaller businesses get more things done, while online services like Twitterfeed save times by monitoring RSS feeds to automatically post on Twitter and Facebook when a new blog entry goes live.
Be Prepared for Irate Customers
Nothing is worse for a small business than the wrath of an irate online customer, and you can see the evidence of that in the comments section of ecommerce storefronts, as well as in various online forums. You can expect the heat to get turned up a couple of notches higher when you enter onto the social media scene, as annoyed customers get drawn to this highly visible medium to give voice to their previously unvented unhappiness.
And mind you, while a response time of one or two business days tends to be acceptable for email correspondence, doing the same on social networks signals nonchalance at best, or incompetence at worst. As such, a "reasonable" time window for responding should be measured in hours, with due consideration given to the non-geographical nature of social networks.
Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.
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