Social Media for the Micro-business

Could Spending Time on Facebook Help Build Your Micro-Business?

Actually, social media is more than just Facebook, although that might be what we first think of. As with all things related to micro-business marketing, the secret lies in identifying what it’s useful for.

Social media originally developed as tools to bring people together and give them an easier way to communicate. MySpace, Friends Reunited and Facebook all had this key purpose in mind, as does Twitter. This is the key point about social media – it’s about sharing and communicating, not selling. If you keep this fact in mind when you’re working out what to do, you won’t go far wrong.

Key Social Media Tools

Community tools. Facebook, MySpace and Google+ are all about creating communities who share. In a social setting you would invite your friends to join your community so that you could spend quality time with them, but would you invite a commercial organisation who wanted to sell you things? Probably not, unless they could bring something worthwhile to the party. So think about what you bring to the party and why communities would want it.

Big brands and companies might produce games or exclusive tickets to events, then they would be very welcome to join as the community would be glad to share what they have to offer. But if you can’t bring anything to share then don’t try and join – you won’t be welcome.

Blogging. A blog contains short articles on topics of interest to readers. Like community tools, it needs a community of readers who might then comment on what has been said, which helps to build the community. Remember though that people won’t be interested in random thoughts – it needs to be of interest to them, so the blog needs to be based around a topic, such as marketing for the micro-business.

Twitter. Technically known as a micro-blogging site, the key purpose is short and snappy communication on interesting topics. People will choose to receive tweets – the individual short snappy communications – if the tweeter has something interesting to say, such as a valued opinion. Someone choosing to receive tweets is known as a ‘follower’. The thing to consider is why anyone would want to follow you. If you have something, such as regular offers or new blog postings, then people will follow. If you don’t, they won’t.

Twitter can also be useful for inbound communications or quick bulk messages. So customers could contact you about shop opening times or stock availability, and you could update them with urgent news. Airlines often use Twitter to update travellers on delays at airports.

Images and video. Following with the theme of sharing and community, visual images are often likely to be shared and viewed. Examples include youTube for video, Instagram and Flickr for photographs. Cute cats and funny clips are great for sharing, but your product demonstration probably isn’t unless it has a high visual content, such as make-up or fashion. That said, these sites can be used to host images and videos which are then referred to in other communications such as the website and emails.

LinkedIn. Think of this as being like Facebook for businesses. Like Facebook, the owner of the micro-business would set up a profile of themselves and their business, then join communities of like-minded individuals. Unlike Facebook, it does have a commercial element but you’re still not expected to be overtly sales-driven, it’s still about sharing and discussing, it’s still a community.

Reviews. Many sites offer the facility for you to leave comments and there are some that are set up specifically for the opportunity, such as TripAdvisor. With social media having such a strong sharing ethos, reviews fit well. Look for opportunities to ask your customers to place reviews on sites which cater for your industry or have the facility on your own website.

Creating a Social Media Strategy

Start by thinking about why you want to use social media. If it’s to generate sales directly, you will be disappointed. But if you need to be there because all your competitors are and your customers expect it, that’s different. It can also help with Search Engine Optimisation because of the web of links it creates.

But if you have something that can be shared and that people would genuinely like to be a part of, then jump in and get actively involved.

If you are going to use social media then you have to commit to it and keep at it. Starting off with a couple of blogs and a few tweets then abandoning it can be worse than not starting it at all – it affects your overall reputation. On the other hand, if you are in it for the long term and are prepared to commit to it, then communities may look to you as a primary provider to them. They will acquire trust in you over time and be happy to share with other people.

Take an integrated approach to your activities. So if you post a new blog article or video, tweet about it and share the news with your Facebook and Linkedin communities. You should also be willing to share things you’ve received that might be of interest to your communities. So if someone tells you about an article that others may benefit from, pass it along and give credit to the person who originally gave it to you.

To see whether social media could play a useful role in your overall micro-business marketing activities, read Customer Purchasing Processes.