Small businesses, with their very limited resources, have to be practical, advises PR Newswire, but can't ignore social media. But if they are balancing time and budgets, where should they begin?
The Newswire offers a shortlist for newbies but cautions that it is not an inclusive list (it does not include, for example, Groupon, but then not all small businesses are suited to daily deals). The Newswire offers its PR Toolkit for small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop affordable public relations and marketing plans to increase search engine rankings and engage with key audiences, and has outlined a shortlist of social starting points.
First is (of course), Facebook. PR Newswire advises that Facebook is the most popular social media tool with businesses, and 92% say it IS their favorite (followed by Twitter at 82%). Yes, every competitor will be on Facebook, but so too will every customer.
First, create a page for your business, then explore Facebook's Ads and Business Solutions section to get help with your page setup, to learn about best practices and read success stories. A shortlist of ways to use Facebook to promote a local business (presuming it is a hair salon and not a tool-and-die shop) include sharing fun facts, figures and statistics; to offer coupons or discounts, where appropriate; and to create contests or polls encouraging fans to participate. The investment is zero to sign up, but involves time in maintaining the account.
YouTube enables you to upload videos in multiple categories (for example, Autos & Vehicles, Gaming, Pets & Animals). Here too, the cost is minimal: With a simple video camera and a script, a local business can put together a good-enough video clip. PR Newswire advises sticking to how your product or service works; specific or key aspects of your product or service; and general advice or tips on a topic within your niche or industry.
Inexpensive does not mean effortless, and you cannot count on a simple search to lead customers to you. Use the Tags section when uploading your videos to increase your chances of being found (presuming the searcher is searching by keyword, and not simply for your business name). Even if you do not bother with tags, a YouTube video embedded in your webpage lends a professional edge to your small business.
Pinterest is the invite-only site that enables you to create your own online bulletin board to "pin" pictures and videos. Users can follow anyone else’s boards or brands and repin images they like hundreds of times (all with links back to the sources’ websites). Pinterest does not include ecommerce; think of it as a tool for brand lift.
Start by requesting an invite from Pinterest (you can do that) by asking to be invited by someone who is already on Pinterest (you can do that too). Then try—
- Pinning quality photos of your product or business
- Selecting appropriate categories and including relevant keywords in your descriptive text
- Including your physical and web addresses
- Following brands and businesses you admire, so they are likely to follow you in return
There is no cost to sign up for Pinterest or to maintain an account.
Finally, blogging is an opportunity to establish expertise, and to embed other multimedia assets like photos, videos and infographics, and to invite reader comments and engage with customers. After Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, Blogging is the fourth favorite social media tool among businesses.
Most leading blogging services (e.g. Blogger, Wordpress, or TypePad) offer design templates, content management systems for posting and editing blogs, plus the ability to use keywords to make posts search-engine friendly.
What to write about? Try being topical (rather than simply grousing), writing about:
- The impact of new technology on your business, products, or services
- Opinions on legislation that affects your business
- Customer success stories or valuable lessons learned
- Human-interest tidbits from within your industry
Allow readers to comment (but reserve the right to approve comments and weed out inappropriate comments. This is, after all, the internet.)
The investment in blogging is minimal, potentially nothing depending upon the type of blog you set up, other than the time involved to write and comment back on posts.