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By Cheryl Lock
Does your business have a cohesive website, and a Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or Pinterest page?
Do you update it frequently, and respond to people who ask questions there?
If not, you might want to consider giving your business’s online presence a little TLC because -- let’s face it -- social media’s not just for kids.
In fact, experts say small businesses that ignore this important facet of their operation may be in for some real trouble. “If small businesses don’t take the lead in developing their social media presence, their customers could be the ones that define it for them,” says Andy Beal, CEO of social media monitoring site Trackur and author of Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation. “In the absence of your own carefully-crafted online reputation, competitors, customers and detractors will fill the void.”
But how do you develop a strong social media presence and connect to customers online when time is limited and employees are strapped? Here are some suggestions.
What Not to Do
For starters, Ivana Taylor, DIY marketing expert and publisher of DIYMarketers.com, suggests creating a single, solid marketing message. “Most business owners treat each [social media] channel as something separate,” says Taylor. “This is a mistake. Create a single market message, choose your photos and then BAM -- cut and paste and you’re up in just minutes.”
One other mistake to avoid is outsourcing all social media to an outside entity. “I’m not saying don’t get help,” says Taylor, “Just get help where it matters. There are social media posts that can be automated and scheduled, preloaded and implemented by your own team. Just give them direction and watch them go.”
Setting up an efficient online presence may take some time in the beginning, but once it’s in place it should run like a well-oiled machine. Follow these steps to cover all the necessary social media bases:
1. Search your name and company
If you don’t find professional pictures of yourself and a consistent description of your business online, start there. Make all messaging across your business’s website, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Pinterest pages consistent. If your messaging is consistent, customers won’t wonder if they’ve landed at the right website or business Twitter page.
2. Set up a Google alert
Maintaining a solid online presence requires getting full coverage of mentions. By setting up a Google alert for your name and your business, you’ll be alerted any time someone is speaking about you or your business online, and you can respond or react as needed.
3. Be reliable
As Taylor mentioned -- it’s easy to automate and schedule certain social media posts. (You can schedule tweets to post ahead of time on Hootsuite, for example.) Maintaining a schedule provides your customers with something they can rely on day in and day out. “Select those things that can be scheduled and researched ahead of time -- like quotes, Follow Friday pictures, or articles you want to share -- and have an assistant schedule them,” suggests Taylor. “This frees you up to work on spontaneous questions and building connections.”
4. Gather insights
Measure your social performance and use the data to improve your social strategy. For example, finding out what time of day your customers are most active on social media platforms can help inform when your posts are likely to get the most interaction. But before you get carried away with counting likes and retweets, checkout the metrics and data Mashable’s experts say matter most to business owners.
At the end of the day, if the ease of setting up a smashing social media campaign for your business doesn’t convince you to do so, consider this from Beal: “Social media levels the playing field with your larger competitors. It’s generally free to use and, as a small business owner, you have a unique voice that can create a more personal connection with customers -- something larger corporations struggle to find.”
"Like It or Not, You Need a Social Media Presence "