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Social media is quickly becoming one of the most effective ways for small businesses to connect with current and prospective customers. In fact, USA Today recently reported that 67 percent of online adults use social-networking sites. These sites are today’s equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising – and savvy small business owners are tapping into its potential to drive traffic and revenue.

If you’re not already using social media, here are a few reasons to start. Used correctly, social media:

  • Gives you the ability to reach potential customers who otherwise would not know your product or service exists.

  • Allows you to establish a personality for your brand – and convey that brand to current and prospective customers.

  • Provides a direct connection with your customers in a way that’s not possible through traditional advertising.

Six tips to get your business on social media

If you’re ready to try social media, here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Follow your customers: Find out what types of social media your customers use the most. For example, does your product target women? If yes, consider using Pinterest, since according to a recent , women are five times more likely than men to use Pinterest. Or, does your product target millennials? If yes, consider using Facebook, as Pew indicates Facebook is their most used social medium. You might even consider where your customers live – Pew found that city dwellers are more likely to use Twitter than those who live in the suburbs or rural areas. After you find out where your customers are, make it your mission to get active on that platform.

  2. Start small: When you’re first starting out, there’s no need to create an account with every social media platform. In fact, it’s better to focus on just one or two at the most. Concentrating your efforts may help you produce stronger content that’s tailored for that specific platform – ultimately yielding better results.

  3. It’s not all about you: A common social media mistake is only talking about yourself. A recent article in Forbes recommends following the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your posts or Tweets should be about your customers and 20 percent about your business. Make that 20 percent count by focusing on shares that include information, contests or links your customers will be interested in and want to share with their own friends and followers.

  4. Be responsive: If a customer posts on your wall or sends you a Tweet, you need to acknowledge it. Even if the customer’s post or Tweet is a complaint – in fact, answering them is especially important if it’s a complaint. This is an opportunity to connect directly with your customers, and how you handle these types of interactions will go a long way toward customer service.

  5. Consider a company blog: If you have the ability to produce content on a regular basis – experts suggest at least once a week – a company blog is a great way to showcase your industry expertise while also allowing your business’ story, brand and personality to shine.

  6. Understand the metrics: Many social media novices measure their success based solely on their number of followers or page likes. You also need to take into consideration the number of conversations, mentions, shares, retweets, etc. to more accurately measure the success of your efforts. Also, consider your bottom line – are you gaining more clients or customers and generating more revenue as a result of your social media efforts? If so, you can consider your efforts a success.

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