Have you gone through one day lately without hearing or reading the words ‘Facebook’, ‘Twitter’, ‘LinkedIn’, ‘YouTube’ or ‘social media’? If so, you must be on a holiday on a desert island (without your smartphone!).

Everyone is talking about them.

Through my engagement with small businesses, I hear a lot of people telling them: “You should really be on Facebook! Are you on Twitter?”.

There’s no secret here, social media does offer great opportunities for business. But for a small business with limited resources, the social media discourse is one that can be confusing, daunting or even scary!

So when should a small business actually consider jumping on the social media bandwagon?

All aboard the social media bandwagon!

When to jump?

1. They’re talking about you!

Are your stakeholders (clients or customers, staff, partners, etc.) already on social media looking for you or talking about you? Or would they be interested in engaging with your brand online? There are two principal ways do find this out:
o Ask them! Your customers will be happy to let you know whether a social media presence for your business would benefit them. They will feel listened and cared for
o Jump on Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on and do a search for your company, your products or services and your industry. Are people already creating conversations about any of these aspects? If so, it probably means they would be interested in engaging with your business online.

2. You do business online

If an important part of your sales happens online (most likely on your website), then you should definitely consider having a presence on social media. It is a great way to raise awareness of your brand and drive traffic to your website.

3. You’re the expert

People are always interested in tips and ideas that will help them develop personally or professionally or grow their business. So if you are an expert in your field (this is particularly true to the professional services industry), then share this expertise through social media. Be generous with your knowledge and people will start recognising you as the ‘go to’ person.
When not to jump?

1. Your target market is offline

There are still some industries that have limited exposure online (for example, aged care, building, etc.). Their customers may be online, but they are not looking at engaging with them on social media. If that is the case with your business, it is probably best to make sure you have a very effective website (essential online presence) and leave social media off your to-do list for the time being.

2. No time to ‘waste’

Let’s face it – we are all busy! And despite all the tools that exist to make the use of social media more streamlined, they are still time consuming. Ideally, you will need to spend at least 15 minutes every morning and afternoon to monitor and engage in discussions. And if you are very popular, it can easily become a part-time job. But the most important point is: you can’t jump in and out of the conversation as it pleases you. To be effective, social media requires long-term commitment. It is like meeting someone for the first time and expecting to maintain a great friendship by contacting them twice a year… So if you are not interested in spending the time necessary for your social media engagement to work for your business, simply don’t bother.

How high should you jump?

I always say that it is better to do one thing only, but do it well. So for beginners to social media, I recommend finding the one platform (i.e Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) that suits their business best and focus on it rather than spreading themselves too thin. Once you’ve really nailed your engagement on that social media platform and are keen to spread your online presence further, then the world is your oyster!

Stay tuned for part two of this article to be posted next Tuesday, 14 June where I will address the four steps to social media for small business.

@KimLarochelle

Kim Larochelle – PR Mentor on LinkedIn