A social media presence is no longer an optional part of running a small business; it’s an absolute necessity.
Facebook, Instagram and other popular forums are as important, if not more so, to a company’s marketing as is television ads and sponsoring local events.
But that’s still a lesson some small-business owners are learning.
Half of small-business owners have a Facebook page, according to the CNBC/Survey Monkey Small Business Survey.
The survey, conducted in April, gathered the findings from more than 2,000 small-business owners across the country in a variety of industries.
It revealed that while 40 percent use social media to communicate with potential customers, just 21 percent advertise their companies on social media.
Those numbers are increasing as these sites become a bigger part of the general public’s life (Facebook, for example, recently announced it had hit 2 billion users).
If you’re running a small business and are on (or joining) Facebook and other social networks, there are a number of ways to gain an edge on the competition — and boost your bottom line.
1. Don’t staff social media out to the youngest staffer.
Because social media is a relatively new phenomenon, many companies — especially small businesses — look to their youngest employees to take care of their presence on those sites.
While the logic makes sense on paper (since the most active users of social media are millennials), it overlooks the value of marketing experience.
“Businesses need to understand this is serious marketing; this is serious brand projection,” says Glen Gilmore, a professor at Rutgers University School of Business and principal of the social media marketing firm Gilmore Business Network.
“It requires thoughtful engagement so that what they’re doing [is] an asset for the business.”
2. Be genuine.
This seems to go without saying, but there’s a difference between marketing on social media and traditional marketing.
Don’t just push your brand or product.
Instead, share your passion about your field and be creative in how you do so. Social media is about talking with your customers, not to them.
“Social media is a conversation,” says Gilmore. “You don’t interrupt conversations; you try to figure out how you can add value to them.”