Is this you?
You have a polished website for your small business and even a professional blog where you publish posts a couple of times per week, and both are meant to help spread your story and bring more sales.
However, you are a bit frustrated because based on your initially optimistic website and blog marketing expectations, for some reason the customers just aren’t coming.
Many small business owners that I know (myself included!) have faced a similar predicament. It can be a bit disheartening on a daily basis knowing that you have a mortgage and bills to pay, yet your online efforts aren’t really providing a return.
When I started my business a few of years ago I made a nice website and a companion blog and waited for the customers to come rushing down the road and break down my door.
Well, I continued to wait for about six months and it garnered minimal results… *insert crickets chirping here*
At first I didn’t really know what the problem was. The information I was posting to my small business blog was not spammy, and in fact was just the opposite, as the site was developed to act as a helpful resource.
What was the problem?
Looking back and analyzing the situation now, the main issue as far as I can tell was that in my mind, my business was being well represented online.
Though, in reality, I was only doing about one-tenth of the work that was required to manage the reputation and promotion of a small business online.
Lucky for me, one day I had what I call, “a social media awakening,” wherein something struck a nerve and I finally realized:
Perhaps, it is time to take the next step and create your small business social media footprint.
The plain and simple truth about marketing your small business online is that there’s much more to Internet promotion and gaining social media traction than a stellar website and blog.
Social Media Footprint
Creating a social media footprint is the process of getting the name of your business and brand recognized on the Internet at various sites where your niche customers are likely to find you.
The ultimate goal is to establish the online identity of your small business and to proactively manage your reputation.
If for nothing more than the simple fact that, the more locations we (the customers) can find you, the more we can begin to understand and trust what you’re about. The end result being, we are more likely to purchase your goods or services.
How did I do it?
Armed with this new knowledge I decided to take a different approach and move beyond my blog and create a social media footprint for my business.
Disclaimer: It’s very important to remember that there really is no right or wrong way to delve into social media promotion for a small business. You should feel confident in know that we are all learning. (Although, I hear that being a jerk does not provide very good results.)
My specific strategy might not work for you, but listed below is a good portion of the steps that I undertake to promote my small business online:
- FLICKR – post relevant, well tagged, pictures to FLICKR on a daily basis. That way when people are searching for a photo that is relevant to your niche, you will always be on top of the search results (if they sort by date). Sounds strange, but this part of my routine helped me to land a full page write-up on my business in the international publication, Islands magazine. Note: there are groups and all kinds of manner to get fully (socially) involved on FLICKR, but my plan did not include that much participation.
- YouTube – along with FLICKR, I started uploading videos to YouTube. Whether you make jewelry, are a plumber, or sell real estate you could start simply with a Flip camera and make some videos that show us how you ply your craft.
- Forum visits – I am fond of saying that no matter what business you are in, from pet grooming to selling shoes and beyond, there is most certainly a forum that covers your small business niche. Find them, be helpful and answer questions. For my own particular business, TripAdvisor is one of the most powerful sites out there, so I try to answer questions that are related to my destination. By being helpful, you can begin to gain the initial trust of those you hope will become your customers.
- Help a Reporter (HARO) – is an amazing, FREE email newsletter that comes out three times a day. It is broken down by category (e.g. business, health, lifestyle, technology, etc) and its purpose is to put reporters in touch with potential sources. Read: Free press.
- Twitter & Facebook – it’s hard to argue with the fact that Twitter and Facebook are revolutionary communication and social media tools. Some small business owners have remarkable results promoting their venture on these sites. At the moment I do NOT really use Twitter or Facebook for marketing my business. I primarily use Twitter for listening, learning, and engaging. So far it has proven to be an invaluable source for networking and hearing about potential opportunities for my business. Should you choose to use Twitter or Facebook for small business promotion, just be aware that you should really know someone well and be comfortable with them, before you start pushing your business. As I stated in a previous Twitip guest post, “It takes a long time to build up a loyal following and develop trust, but it only takes one Tweet to alienate every one of your followers.”
When you review the list above, it might not seem like much, but I always try to remember that it’s the little things (the basics!) that we do on a daily basis that really help with small business promotion over the long term.
Also, it’s not about what anyone else does, the hope here is to get you thinking creatively and to expand your online marketing efforts.
After you spend some time developing a consistent strategy, sooner or later you will figure out what works best for you and which actions are providing measurable results.
Unfortunately, there are NO shortcuts. Hardwork, consistency, listening, engaging, and helping are all required over a period of time to establish a well distributed social media footprint.
I often like to explain to people that you have to tend to your small business social media efforts (almost) everyday like a garden in order to make them bloom and grow.
Have you moved beyond your small business blog to promote your small business? What is some of your strategy?
Mark Hayward lives in the Caribbean and built up a clientele for his small business using nothing but social media. He tries to help beginners make sense of social media and how they can use it for business promotion. You can follow him on Twitter @mark_hayward.