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How should my business be using social media?

Between a lack of time, understanding or avoiding unfavorable customer comments, some small business owners shy away from using social media for their companies. With fewer and fewer consumers shopping in physical locations these days, it might be time to explore new ways to reach your current and future customers.

A recent Pew Research Center study reports that over 70% of Americans now have at least one social media profile. Businesses that lack an online presence are missing out on direct access to a large portion of their customers and the chance to build brand awareness, enhance loyalty, increase sales and drive the conversation about their brand. Not only does social media provide you with a platform to display your products and services to thousands of people in just a few seconds, it can also create a positive and lasting relationship with your customers, both young and old.

Still not completely sold that you need a social presence? Here are some tips to get started.

1. Start with a plan. This new world doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Set goals and objectives that will make a real impact on your business. It’s ok to start small. Acquiring new customers or introducing new merchandise, for example, is more valuable than gaining “likes.” Create a social media calendar to track dates for creating and posting content.

2. Choose platforms that makes sense for your business. Consider your customer demographics and choose the social media platforms in which they are most likely to engage. B2B’s, for example, may find more success on LinkedIn, while retail businesses may want a Pinterest page.

3. Write meaningful content. This may seem obvious, but it’s critical to have content that is fresh, timely and appealing to your customers. Overt sales pitches are off-putting. Posts that educate or entertain are always in style. Don’t allow your information to become stale – always measure how your content is performing and update or adjust when needed.

4. Expand your audience. Build your presence by using social media tools like hashtags, tagging, or short videos to attract new customers. Once you are comfortable using all of the free features offered to you through the different social media platforms, take it up a notch with some paid posts or advertisements. Facebook, for example, makes it easy (for a price) for small businesses to “boost” posts and push them out to the demographic of your choosing. Ask for feedback and thoughtfully respond to criticism to create trusting relationships. Give people a reason to follow you.

5. Piggyback on other activities. Take advantage of national events like Small Business Saturday by running your own content in conjunction with them.

Social media is here to stay. Don’t miss out on an audience that’s ready and willing to connect with your brand. It may even work so well that you can look at reducing your budget in some areas.

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