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30 Valuable Lessons Learned Using Social Media for Small Business

Posted By Darren Rowse 18th of March 2010 Business Blogging, Social Media 0 Comments

In this post Mark Hayward shares some great tips on social media for small business.

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Do you own a small business? How long have you been using social media as a marketing tool and what have you learned?

In a little over a months time I will have owned my business for just about three years. When I began using social media some thirty six months ago, I had no real marketing background experience, and I certainly had never written a blog post, interacted in a forum, or sent a Tweet.

My social media evolution began with a simple foray into blogging as a way to try and rank well for some keywords related to my business. From there I expanded to niche forums, review sites, FLICKR, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Man! Just trying to keep up can be intimidating and overwhelming.

However, my number one goal has always been to create a distributed social media footprint with all of my online marketing activities pointing back towards my small business website.

After almost three years of working hard, learning continuously, making lots of mistakes, and monitoring successes, below are thirty valuable social media marketing lessons that I have learned through my experience. I hope they help you:

1. Location is dead. We have now fully entered into the Interaction Economy.

2. It does not pay to engage in ‘pissing contests’ on business review sites or in forums.

3. When used properly, a small video camera like a Flip and a standard digital camera (or just an iPhone), can be like having your own marketing department.

4. Instead of trying to be everywhere in the social media space, determine what online activities work best for your business and focus your attention there.

5. Search Engine Optimization(SEO) is important but it needs to be combined with a well distributed plan for Search Engine Visibility (SEV).

6. Conceptualizing and then defining your social media goals can help to keep you on track.

7. Social networking sites can be a tremendous time suck. Use a site like Egg Timer to help limit the time you spend interacting online.

8. Get to know the online influencers in your small business niche, as well as, the social media pros.

9. There is gold to be mined with Twitter Search if you are willing to use it to listen, engage, and provide value.

10. Uploading well titled and tagged videos to YouTube and photos to FLICKR can drastically improve your Search Engine Visibility.

11. Consistent small business blogging pays the greatest returns.

12. Technology changes daily. Read often.

13. You should not fear customer review social sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. Rather, you should embrace them.

14. Helping people online when they least expect it can bring you great rewards.

15. Even on your worst day, you have to remember that every interaction counts.

16. Spamming and jamming your business down the throats of potential customers only drives business away.

17. Not everyone is going to like you, so be prepared to get flamed and read negative reviews.

18. Turn negative reviews into a positive by using them to help better define who your ideal customer is.

19. Your backstory matters and weaving it into your online business persona is important.

20. Social media is a lot like exercise. Doing a little bit consistently everyday will produce better results than one eight hour marathon session per month.

21. The people who criticize you the most for using social media to promote your small business are the one’s who are most afraid of embracing change.

22. One of the easiest ways for small business owners to measure social media ROI is to ask every customer how they heard about your business.

23. When starting your social media marketing efforts for your small business you will get frustrated. Try to keep a long term outlook like six months to a year.

24. Don’t discount the power of niche forums that are related to your small business.

25. Use Google Alerts to see who’s talking specifically about your business and anything related to your business.

26. If you are using social media as a customer service tool, when something goes wrong (and it always does!), being sincere, humble, and apologetic will be greatly appreciated by your future potential customers.

27. Utilizing free email lists like Help A Reporter Out (HARO) can help you find valuable public relations and news opportunities for your business.

28. Social media in the short term does not work. You must be in it for the long term and be persistent, consistent, and committed.

29. Anyone who owns a small business can ‘do’ social media, but NOT everyone ‘does’ it. (And that is your true competitive advantage.)

30. If you have a spare hour or two everyday to aimlessly surf the net, or sit and watch T.V., then you have more than enough time to commit to using social media for your small business.

How long have you been using social media for your small business? What have you found works best?

Mark Hayward hates the snow and cold! Luckily, he owns a small business in the Caribbean. Mark is passionate about helping other small business owners avoid the online mistakes he has made. You can follow Mark on Twitter @mark_hayward and you can subscribe to his RSS Feed for weekly small business social media marketing tips.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. I definitely agree. I particularly liked the tip about engaging in social media a little a day rather than marathons once in a while.
    Thanks for a very useful article.

  2. “4. Instead of trying to be everywhere in the social media space, determine what online activities work best for your business and focus your attention there.”

    I wasted 6mos of my 2+yrs in social media trying to get involved in every site that launched. Concentrating on just a few now, I am able to be where I need to be, when I need to be there.

  3. Great tips, there’s more valuable information in this set of tipes than in most of the courses being peddled by the social media guru crowd.

    In my opinion, the biggest secret to social media success is getting started and being “cool.” If you wouldn’t like someone else to do it then don’t. If you think it would be great if someone else did it then do it.

    Like #28 says it’s an investment — I compare it to working out. You need to keep at it and do a little bit every day and eventually you’ll start to see amazing results. But also like working out if you miss a day or two you start to lose what you’ve gained rather quickly.

    Doug

  4. Great post I really enjoyed it.

  5. Great article Mark, I got started in this social media world only within the last year. As an owner of a finish carpentry and design company. I find the ability to share photo’s and comments about our current projects instantly to an audience of “friends” on Facebook is absolutely amazing. I love small business and keeping up with those trends. It has been a slow integration process with website, blog, Facebook, and now twitter. So much to learn and share! Thanks for your insight, keep up the good work!

  6. Oh this is excellent, thank you Mark. I responded “yes” to virtually all this, but the analogy that using social media is like exercise struck me as most similar to my experience. You have stick with it, practice it, sometimes fall off it (hopefully not as often as I fell off a treadmill), and experiment to work out what works for you. It’s not a “get there fast” rocket answer to marketing.

    Twitter dumbfounded me until the day I put a small tweet out about needing to connect with an Aussie farmer who blogs to interview them for Blog Action Day last year in October. The theme was climate change. I was interviewing farmers in Ghana already, where I live, about their experience and I wanted to compare their existence with that of industrialised farmers who had access to education and knowledge of climate change, but also blogged! Within a day tweet people responded. Within 4 days I had a network of contacts in Australia and the ABC (national broadcaster) put an announcement out across rural Australia and that night I had myself a farmer who blogged!

    All that from a room in the far north of Ghana! That’s when I finally understood the point of twitter. It took me months to get to that point! It was very frustrating, initially, but it’s worth sticking with it to see results–just like the gym.

    No pain (or sweat in my hot, tropical case), no gain.

  7. I just started using social media a couple months ago so I’m still new. Thanks for the post. I will keep the lessons in mind.

  8. Interesting article.

    I’ve only just started blogging professionally in the last 3 months and I agree that being strategic and having a long term view makes using social media more productive.

    It’s important to be disciplined and to focus on the most productive channels that give you the best returns.

    What I’ve also found extremely important is branding. I apply the same branding features in all social media channels that I use and it helps in promoting my brand out there.

  9. Some great tips Mark, though I think you could probably expand on each of these to full length topics. There are some great thoughts, but I would love to hear more robust examples of each experience. Future post possibilities?

  10. Great list. Addressing #30 specifically. That is exactly where I found the “extra” time to devote to my business. Turn off the TV, disconnect the cable, and use that time to put into action the 29 other tips on this list.

  11. This is a very solid list Mark. I found 14 and 15 to be really sound advice. Sometimes when your having a 15 day, a 14 moment can turn it around.

    All the Best,
    Jeff Hood

  12. Thanks for the great advice! I am just starting my journey into social media so I’m sure it will be valuable information going forward.

  13. Additional Tip: Don’t spread yourself too thin. If necessary focus on really using a few social networks rather than half-heartedly using every network.

    Thanks for the great post!

  14. Thanks – I plan to forward this list to my business partner, it will be a great conversation starter for us.

    Meredith

  15. @anne -glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve tried doing social media both ways (marathon sessions & little bit per day) and I just find I get much better ROI with a little per day.

    @gail – yeah, it took me a while to get Twitter sorted too! If you need sources again, you might want to give HARO a try. :-)

  16. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for sharing these great tips.

    I recently implemented #4 and #9.

    #4 I ditched my Facebook Fan Page and my LinkedIn page because I just wasn’t utilizing them and felt bad leaving fans and connections in “limbo”. Now I focus on my blog and Twitter and it’s working well.

    #9 I discovered something on Twitter and decided to use Twitter Search to see if there was more of what I discovered – sure enough, there was and I turned what I found into an information product called Get Famous Fast. :D

    Thanks again!
    Heather

  17. Great tips Mark, seriously great list. There’s a ton of things I could add but I don’t want to take up too much space and bore people to death ;-)

    One thing I will do is go a little bit farther on using Twitter search. It’s great but there’s much better tools out there and more productive at that. I like using Twazzup or Twitterfall and you can reply, retweet, auto-load, and all sorts of things, all from the same page.

  18. Hi Mark,
    While each point resonated with me, I’ve seen the best results from consistent blogging (when I’m being consistent :-) ).
    The key word being consistent, huh? That’s been my biggest challenge with social media!
    Numbers 6 & 7- setting goals and using a timer are great starting points for me to become more consistent with social media!
    Great post…thanks!
    Kim

  19. @mike – thanks for the tips on Twazzup or Twitterfall. I pretty much run everything through TweetDeck but will definitely give your suggestions a closer look!

    @kim – consistency is a big one for me too. I try to get one small business blog post written per week, but if I go more than two or three weeks without posting, I try not to use that as an excuse to give up.

  20. wonderful lessons. thank u 4 sharing. correct on all fronts and one has to use time to their advantage. perhaps it’s worth it to train someone to help you with conversation marketing, that is, someone who can reply to the generic and once per day you can scan your social streams and respond accordingly.

    i have a physical egg timer to keep me on track. thank you for sharing e.ggtimer.com … wonderful to use when i’m not working in my office w/o my egg timer :-)

  21. Great post – key line for me is “Anyone who owns a small business can ‘do’ social media, but NOT everyone ‘does’ it. (And that is your true competitive advantage.)”

    Thanks.

    Ed

  22. I am only a beginner, but everything I have read in this post is what I have been experiencing.

  23. I love this post….You really brought it home and helped me to truly realize and appreciate that my efforts are working. I have gained 3 clients as a result of Twitter and I work hard at NOT spending too much time but enough. I spend more time completing social media tasks for others…and it does pay off. Thank you for writing this!

  24. Great post Mark! You’re definitely correct about technology changing; if you don’t like it today wait until tomorrow because there will be new platforms and tools coming into the fold. I would be interested to know your top 5 consistently relevant and informative news/tech blogs you turn to on a weekly basis.

    Thanks!

    Zach

  25. @Keith – great point! Spreading yourself too thin is a recipe for certain disaster…

    @Ryan – awesome to hear that you are using social media for your carpentry and design business! What percentage of your customers would you say come from Facebook?

  26. Thanks for another great post Mark.

    I am new to both blogging and social media (in fact it is part of my “therapy” to stop living in the dark and being fed pizza from under the door. :)

    I am going to try video next week. Small steps :)

    Point 29 is going to be a challenge.

    Thanks for the help.

  27. I have found that google alerts and twitter searches are hugely valuable.

  28. I have been using twitter for a little more than a year and found out quickly quite a few people did not like me (your #17) I actually stopped posting to twitter after being told I was boring or if I mentioned one of my websites that I was working on I quickly became a spammer. This drove me nuts because all I do is work on blogs, forums, websites, ect so thats what I posted. I found that after a while the flame stopped and the followers that stuck around really liked knowing what websites were coming up.

    I also really like your #28 I tried social media for a short time and found no results it took around 6 months of real networking before I started to see the pay offs and had quite a few online people that I could rely on. Anyway I really enjoyed your post very good tips.

    Kris,

  29. I so totally agree with everything that you have said. It takes time to build a business and the internet has changed everything is now more social interactive. The egg timer is brilliant and everyone should use one so that they can monitor there time truly.

  30. Great list of tips! Sound like something Seth Godin might have written.

    The best thing about social media is that it lowers the interaction barrier between business and clients and potential clients.

  31. I started my site a few weeks ago and have been engaged in consistent social media every day (no more than an hour or two a day).

    It makes small changes in short term, but adds humongous benefits in the long term!

  32. I started my business venture in May 2008. I use Facebook, Twitter & You Tube.

    For me You Tube brings in the traffic and also the revenue!. Being a “You Tube” partner is amazing for an on-line business.

    My Top Five Tips:

    1. Make 5,000 Facebook Friends.
    2. Make 5,000 You Tube Friends.
    3. Follow 100 people that interest you.
    4. Read problogger!.
    5. Add one photo to your blog every Monday.

    Thanks

    ;]

  33. I agree with most of these tips. I been using most of them and they have helped me get connected with so many people out there. It so nice to be able to just post a question on twitter and get 100 responses in two minutes.

    I don’t understand why some people and business think it’s a waste of time. I just think they are either old school minded or just ignorant.

  34. Mark – You’re living it…not just writing about it. Thanks for your generosity. I’d love to read a whole article about #8 and #9. How to reach the ‘players’ in my market, and how to best use Twitter search.

    I’m new to the SM game, but much having success with many of the things that you’ve written. Thanks for confirming my efforts!

  35. I especially appreciate your tip on using Egg Timer to keep your social networking sites under control. One reason I find myself avoiding being a daily visitor is because I feel like I’m going to end up spending hours on there and neglect the other important things I need to do for my business. Thanks for the tip and the reminder — I’m in control of my time so I need to act responsibly.

  36. poin #28 social media is for long term. Most people is not patient. They want get fast money. I think we must be patient to find money.

  37. I enjoyed and found value in all of the points, especially the ones about egg timer, twitter search, and helping people at an unexpected time

  38. I found your post very interesting, I like your idea about the six or 1 year to let the bussines grow in social media, is like bussines in the street, only when the people know the quality of your products, and you as a person, they can tell others about you. Is the simple human relationship and trust.

  39. hi i am john i am creating 2 videos for my site, those videos are uploaded into different type of media sites like you tube,my space,flicker etc..after the i bookmark those site .but i didn’t get any traffic and my keyword position also not improved please give me any good suggestion. thank you…

  40. Great post. I agree that effective social media marketing is done by consistent work on social medias rather than everything at once and then nothing.

  41. @Zach – For my social media influence and reading list I pretty much stick with the stock standards: Seth Godin, ProBlogger, Chris Brogan, DoshDosh, Duct Tape Marketing, and a bunch of others. I also find that I get some great links to valuable articles from the people I follow on Twitter.

  42. @bob – what is your specific business? Perhaps I can use it as an example in a future post.

    To all of the other folks who commented, *thank you*! It’s always nice to see (realize) that we are all learning this stuff together and that there really are no shortcuts when it comes to small business social media.

  43. Great pointers. Love the post. Thanks

  44. So right about social media being powerful. As long as we use it as a relationship building tool first and a business tool second all should go well. Get the order wrong and everyone runs from you as fast as they can…lol!

  45. Hi Darren,

    Wow, what a great post. I desperately need this info! I am all over the place and very lost right now in the social marketing arena.

    I’m printing this out and studying it. I own a “gift shop” online and finding it hard to connect with people without sounding like a saleswoman.

    Thanks for your help, I know it will make a difference.

    Go ahead, make my day!

  46. Thanks Mark. This is so helpful as well encouraging since I also have a small business. What continues to ring in my ear is, consistency, consistency, consistency. Thanks

  47. Mark — great post. At the core of an effective SM strategy is being clear on your organization’s value proposition and then relentlessly reinforcing it in the channels that you can use to most effectively reach your targets. I think #19 begins to touch on this point about weaving your backstory and online persona. With so many options it is easy to become distracted. Asking yourself “Does this reinforce my value proposition? backstory? brand?” will help guide the day-to-day tactics.

  48. This article on social media lessons was well-written and easy to read (though the number 30 in the title initially scared me). It was relevant and helped to confirm things I know/believe, while adding in some surprises that are helping me to keep learning.

    Thanks!

  49. I strongly agree with you because I have started last november 2009 and there is no traffic to my blog since january before I join Twitter.After that I have got around 22 subscribers and more than 300 followers in twitter.When I check my click through It had raised fomr 0 to more than 2000.But always keep in mind if you engage in social media you have to give value in your niche.

  50. This is a really solid list of tips. I personally have found that social media is a fairly shallow pool of potential customers, at least on Facebook, because there are so many people in it for the same reason.

    Marketers add as many firends as possible and don’t read each other’s pages or make comments. I only use these methods in small ways, but I have grabbed a few customers.

    You just need to work in very high volumes with social media in order to get any kind of results.

    I still prefer list-building over any other source. Here, you have a captive audience that has signed up to see what you have to say and its a powerful way to maintain a loyal following… of course when you combine it with a blog as well.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

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