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Become a small business social media guru.

Many small business owners recognize the advantages a strong social media presence can provide — 22 percent said in a recent Staples survey that they’d take a solid Facebook community over a celebrity endorsement!

Additionally, nearly 50 percent have increased time spent on social media compared to a year ago, according to a poll from Manta. Yet some entrepreneurs aren’t getting all they can out of sites like Facebook and Twitter. Writing and posting takes time — which, for busy small business owners, can be a struggle.

Social media sites can help you engage new and current customers; but just posting random things at random times may not do the job. Use the following 6 tips to plan your next promotional campaign and become a social media marketing guru:

  1. Build a multi-platform presence: Facebook remains the most popular social networking site, according to Inc. magazine, but others — such as LinkedIn, which has 55 million users — can also provide key promotional opportunities.Inc. suggests first identifying your audience and what products or services you can best promote on social network sites. For example, Facebook is often ideal for building potential client relationships and advertising products, Twitter can help promote news and events and highlight industry know-how, and LinkedIn can facilitate networking and finding new employees.
     
    While building this multi-platform presence, just be cognizant of the resources and time you need to devote to each social channel, because it may hurt your brand to be on a platform and not be actively engaging with your customers. If you don’t have a ton of time, it may be better to pick one or two channels to start with.
     
  2. Post useful content: To fully engage customers, you need to share items they’ll want to read. Useful updates — such as new office locations and holiday hours — qualify. But you’ll also need to post content that distinguishes you from your competition, like how-to videos, employee profiles and suggestions about how people can use what you sell, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Also, consider posting testimonials, as a recent American Lifestyles report said 69 percent of Americans seek out online advice and opinions on goods and services before purchasing.
     
  3. Engage multiple contributors: The person who manages your company’s social media use doesn’t have to be the only one who contributes content. American Express suggests segmenting your social media presence by encouraging different employees, suppliers and other associates to also add updates, which can help you reach different target audiences.
     
  4. Interact with followers: Respond to tweets about your products or services, such as customer mentions on Facebook, and correct any complaints people post, which Entrepreneur magazine says can help build personal relationships. Many companies fear backlash from customers via social media, but you can actually use it as an opportunity to control the conversation surrounding your brand.
     
  5. Calculate effectiveness: Web analytics tools like Google Analytics can help you track which items customers connect with (and which they don’t), according to Entrepreneur; you can see how many people clicked on, liked or shared an item. (For a few helpful tips on calculating social media ROI, check out this Forbes article.)Just remember that it’s important to know what you’re measuring. For example, on Facebook, if your goal is to drive customers to your website, “link clicks” would be much more important than “likes.” But if you want to go viral and get your name out on a social media site, a “share” might be more important than a “link click” or “like.”
     
  6. Give it time: Once you’ve created and begun enacting a comprehensive posting plan, be patient. It’s all about testing and learning, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get every post right the first time. Getting a big-picture view of what posts and methods can most successfully boost your bottom line may take some time, but, according to Forbes, social media will help continuously promote your company’s personality in the meantime — and build trust with customers.
     

One final note: It’s important to know the rules and regulations governing the use of social media. Facebook and Twitter both have guidelines around the use of their platform, which may impact how you’d execute things like promotions (e.g., sweepstakes). Additionally, know your industry. Some industries — such as financial services — are governed by more strict regulations, so check with a legal representative for guidance if you have questions1.

1 The survey referenced herein was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights (“Pollara”), an independent research firm, at the request of BMO Harris Bank. Pollara is not affiliated with BMO Harris Bank, either by common ownership, management, control or otherwise. Results cited above are from an online survey conducted between November 14, 2013, and November 22, 2013, by Pollara. Interviews were conducted with 601 owners, presidents, CEOs or senior decision makers of businesses. A probability sample of this size would be accurate to ± 4.0%, 19 times out of 20. Results have been weighted to reflect the actual business landscape in the USA, based on the latest census data.

BMO Harris Bank makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, in respect thereof, takes no responsibility for any errors and omissions that may be contained herein and accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss (whether direct, consequential or otherwise) arising from any use of or reliance on the information listed herein. Information may be available to BMO Harris Bank and its affiliates that is not reflected herein. This report is for informational purposes only, is not investment advice and is not to be used as a basis for any investment decision.

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