Business Growth and Social Media

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If you’re looking for a place to focus your business growth efforts, try social media.

Word-of-mouth marketing has received a technology makeover, and it’s called social media. Hands down, it’s the most powerful tool that any business owner can use to engage customers and drive revenue growth. But here’s the rub. Even though small business owners understand how important social media is to their success, for the most part it’s still a theoretical understanding. They’re not taking advantage of social media’s full potential. So says Steven D. Strauss, small business expert and author of “The Small Business Bible.”

Staples recently released the results of its Small Business and Social Media Study. As Strauss notes in an article at Small Business Computing, given the marketing choice of a Facebook page with 2 million active fans, a Super Bowl ad or a celebrity endorsement, the number one pick among those surveyed was the Facebook page (41 percent).

So while 41 percent wish to win the Facebook marketing lottery, 53 percent struggle to use social media effectively. The good news is that of those who do use social media and track their ROI (return on investment), 76 percent of those small businesses who took part in the survey say they saw a positive return on their social media efforts.

(MORE: The First Step to Real Growth)

Join the Conversation

Strauss points out that today word-of-mouth consists of shares, likes and retweets. Small business owners can’t afford to ignore social media—it drives traffic, growth and revenue. Instead, he offers these tips on how to join the conversation.

1. Start Small

A common small business complaint: they’re overwhelmed at the thought of mounting a marketing presence on a multitude of social media platforms.  So don’t. Run a poll on your website and find out where your customers congregate: Facebook, Pintrest, LinkedIn, Twitter—or maybe even YouTube. Pick one, and focus on it until you’ve mastered that platform. Then, if your customer base warrants it, you can consider expanding to another platform.

2. Meet the Millennials

While anyone can master social media, there’s no question that it’s second nature to the Internet generation. Consider taking advantage of that innate skill set, and tap a younger employee to be your social media intern. “Don’t put them totally in charge of it,” says Strauss. Rather, give them the tools and the go ahead to get the job done, but be sure to oversee their efforts.

3. Mind the Metrics

While social media marketing is one of the most affordable ways to build your business, don’t forget to track your efforts and keep tabs on what your get back on your investment—of both money and time. Common metrics include likes, shares and followers, but remember, all of those social interactions “should be making you more money,” says Strauss. If you’re not getting results—revenues aren’t going up, or worse yet, they’re dropping—it means that you’re not engaging effectively and it’s time to reassess your methods and try a new social approach.

(MORE: Prepare to Impress Investors)

4. Converse, Don’t Advertise

Social media is not a 24-hour broadcast channel, so don’t use it to blast news and updates about your business. Strauss suggests using the 80/20 rule to keep the focus on your customers. “Eighty percent of your tweets or posts should be about them,” he says. The other 20 percent can be about your business, but—and this is essential—make sure it’s worthwhile content that your customers will want to share. Think e-books, videos or contests. Your goal is to provide content that creates positive word-of-mouth online.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of Small Business Computing. Follow Lauren on Twitter.

Adapted from Small Business Quick Guide to Social Media, by Pedro Hernandez at Small Business Computing. Follow Small Business Computing on Twitter.