How to Use Social Media To Get Ahead of the Competition

Linda Childers

If you have a Twitter and Facebook account for your business, and wonder if you should expand your company’s social media presence, you’re not alone. A survey conducted by Staples, found that while small business owners recognize the power of social media in engaging customers, most lack the expertise to apply the latest digital marketing tools to their business.

Heidi Cohen, of Actionable Marketing, a New York-based marketing agency, says there are many ways small businesses can utilize social media to gain a competitive edge. And for those who are pressed for time, or lack expertise, there are resources ranging from paid social media consultants to online classes.

“Often, the biggest boost for a small business comes from being the first go-to resource for consumers on a specific topic and social media platform,” Cohen says. “One of my favorite examples of this is Marcus Sheridan’s River Pool Company who increased revenue by using social media to answer prospects’ questions about swimming pools.”

If you have decided it’s time to maximize your business impact using social media, consider the following tips:

Evaluate Your Business Needs and Customer Base.

While Twitter or Instagram may work well for one company, they aren’t necessarily the best matches for every small business.

Crystal Dempsey, owner of From the Hip Communications, a content and social marketing company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, starts by asking her small business customers how much time they can devote to social media, why they believe they should be using social media, and the specific customer demographics they hope to reach.

“If my customer is trying to reach millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995), I suggest using Instagram or Tumblr,” Dempsey says. “For businesses who lend themselves well to photos, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube may be better matches for showcasing their products.”

Engage Your Customers.

“While each business must assess the various social media options, I believe a company blog enables a business to build a home base where they can continue to provide on-going useful content to core prospects, customers, influencers and fans,” Cohen says.

In order to be successful, it’s also critical for small businesses to interact with customers and provide them with new product info, coupons or discounts.  When Lisa Lillien, founder of the popular Hungry Girl brand launched her company in 2004, she began offering a daily newsletter filled with recipes and foodie tips to 100 followers, Lillien now has over 1 million loyal newsletter subscribers and over 1 million Facebook followers. She continues to personally write her daily Facebook updates, and uses her company’s Facebook page to post new product information and answer questions from customers.

Demonstrate Commitment.

“A social media commitment requires on-going content sharing and engagement in order to reap rewards,” Cohen says. If you can’t find the time to make regular social media updates, consider hiring a social media consultant.”

Dempsey recommends that small businesses update their social media accounts 3-4 times a week, although she admits that some companies post updates more frequently.

“I have one client, a performing arts center, that posts regular show updates and offers contests — they might give free tickets to the tenth person who re-Tweets info on an upcoming show,” she says. “Another client in the beauty industry, uses social media to book spaces filled by cancellations. They spread the word on Twitter or Facebook that one of their stylists has last-minute openings on Friday, and the appointments are quickly booked.”


Next Steps:  Are you looking to expand and grow your small business but don’t have time to keep up with the latest trends and technology? We’ve got you covered with the weekly Small Biz Ahead newsletter. Sign up today and start receiving the weekly newsletter chock full of the latest tools and resources to help you run a successful business.

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