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Social Networking checklist for Small Business

Social Media Checklist for Small Business

Ignoring social media is not a good plan

There has been a lot of hype about social media, advice running rampant. Much of it disseminated by "consultants" eager to get your business by ´helping´ you with social media campaigns etc... For most small business this is not a viable approach. In fact, we have seen little good information specifically catered to small business about how best for them to tackle the social networking world. This article is specifically aimed at providing advice for small business and non-profit organizations about social networking.

Social networking/media is huge - there is no denying this. However, just because it is so popular and timely doesn´t necessarily mean that you should focus your marketing efforts there, in fact it does not even mean you need to spend much time there at all. However every business should investigate it, consider their options, and then take at least some action.

This checklist gives you different "degrees" of action to take depending on what you intend to do in social media and how involved you want to get as a business.
Social Media Stage 1: Register

First Degree - Social Media Registration

Things every business should do regardless of inteneded participation

Register your business and personal names as accounts on all major sites
When registering if the site has an option to include a link to your web site ensure you do that.
Have a "profile" photo ready (usually a square version of your logo)
Have a brief bio/description of your business ready
Register on the key sites using your business name (you may want to register your personal name as well) and secure your brand. Even if you don´t intend to use them right away, registration is free.

Always register:
Twitter
Facebook & Facebook Page
Google+ & Google+ Page
instagram
YouTube
LinkedIn
Foursquare
about.me

Optionally register:
Flickr
Quora
Pinterest
Tumblr
Posterous
StumbleUpon

Always Claim your listing on related/automatic sites
Google Places/Local
Klout (sign-in using twitter is recommended)
Yelp (claim your business or add it)
Foursquare (check-in at your business to ensure it´s listed)
Empire Avenue

Social media ´usernames´ (handles, screen names, etc) are becoming almost as important as domain names to register and secure for your business. Even if you do not intent to participate on any of these platforms you should register with them and get your business "name" secured - before someone else does. It´s free and registering for all of these from scratch should take less then 1 hour.

More tips:
  • Create bookmarks in your browser to each of your pages in all these networks - to easily jump back later
  • Use different passwords for each service and track them in something like Keepass
  • Create appropriate Profile/Banner graphics for each network that are consistent with your branding (Social Graphics Specs cheat-sheet)
  • DO NOT interconnect the networks for automatic posting (ie: connecting Facebook to make tweets etc)
Social Media Stage 2: Open

Second Degree - Opening Remarks

Make an opening statement - based on your intentions

Create a single post/update on each of the major sites with a link to your web site/contact info and explain your intentions. Exactly what you should say depends a lot on what those intentions are. Remember social is a very personable medium generally you want to adopt a casual and friendly tone.
People value honesty, social is a conversation not a broadcast - be real!

If you plan on starting to use the site in the near future post something like:
"We´re new here and looking forward to getting to know you."

If you do not intend to get into using the site any time soon post something like:
"We are not currently active on <the social network name> to get in touch with us please visit <url here>"

Do not create a ´welcome to´/´under construction´ post that says something like "Welcome to our <the social network name> page, look for great things coming soon" this is just like an ´under construction´ message on a web site and it is one of the fastest ways to turn people off. If you do not feel ready to start using the site say so.

If your business is not ready to start using social media stop here. You have protected your brand, catered in a small way to the users of the various networks by providing them with a way to contact you, and you can focus on getting your house in order until you are ready to return. If your business is ready to jump into the social networking world, carry on to the third stage...
Social Media Stage 3: Prepare

Third Degree - Preparation

Everything is easier with the right tools and knowledge

Prerequisites
Trying to get involved in social networking without a mobile smartphone is tricky and not recommended for someone running a small business. Social and mobile go hand in hand, and to really communicate properly you´re going to need to be accessible more then just when you´re sitting at your desk.
It is nearly impossible to keep up with social networking traffic without a desktop and mobile client.

Register for, download and install some form of desktop client like  Hootsuite (our favorite), Tweetdeck, or Seemic Desktop. Do not try to use all the individual web sites for connecting on social media - it´s nearly impossible to keep up that way. These clients will consolidate your experience, alert you to messages and help you keep up. Then install the matching mobile client on your smart phone.

Schedule a set time every day for specifically dealing with your social media ~ 30-60 mins. You will also need find a way to check throughout the day and respond to direct contacts and mentions rapidly - thus the need for a smartphone. In an average day if you sum up the "maintenance" time with normal replies throughout the day a realistic time commitment for any small business is at least 1 hour a day.

Visit Klout and attach your accounts - make a note of your current score there before you start going social. Your starting score will be very low, that´s fine it´s just something that should be fun to watch grow.

Watch and Learn

Once you´re hooked up with the right tools, start to friend/follow people: watch and learn. See what the leaders are doing and get a "feel" for each community. Facebook is drastically different then Twitter or Google Plus. These distinctions will become evident very quickly as you watch what is going on and start to participate in the communities.

Each network has conventions, shorthand notations, and specific eccentricities - you will need to know these and there are tons of articles to help understand the difference between a @mention or a #hashtag or a +Plus to list a few. Twitter has the most because of it´s character limits and Facebook has the fewest.

To start with follow your real life friends, but also follow people who are leaders in your community, your industry, potential customers, even following your competition is a good idea. The point here is to get a feel for each community and start to form a plan for how you will communicate in each one. Sometimes the same posting will work across communities, other times you will need to restrict what goes where. Following more experienced social ´influencers´ across networks will help you get a feeling.

Need somewhere to start? Follow PawPrint:
Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus

If we see you there we´ll follow you back and you´ll have a friendly face to start some communications with right off the bat. You can also watch how we use each network and get a feel for what you might want to post by watching our feeds.
Social Media Stage 4: Engage

Fourth Degree - Engagement

Start to communicate - this is not about marketing

You´ve done your homework, you´re ready to go - so get out there and open-up, talk to people, engage!
Social networking is like real networking - think of it like a giant global cocktail party that never ends. Act accordingly.

You will learn best how to engage with your followers by watching others but we can provide a few tips. Keep our anaology in mind of social networking being like a giant global cocktail party - it really is. To be the life of the party you´re going to need to mingle, listen, tell a few jokes, have some fun, and don´t drink too much or do something inappropriate.

Don´t make it all about you - this is probably the thing most business does wrong when getting into social networking. Go back to the cocktail party: imagine how you would react to someone walking throughout the party constantly telling you about their business and handing out brochures and business cards without your asking. There is a reason we do not call this "social media marketing" and that is because it shouldn´t be. It is networking - the difference is that you can network with your customers and potential customers. Talk to them - not at them.

Don´t be afraid to get personal - one of the great allures of social networking is that we all actually get to be social. This isn´t about some faceless corporation spewing out text that was agreed upon in a focus group, it´s about people sharing thoughts and ideas and being themselves. IF you took a day off to head to the beach with your family - that is a perfect thing to tweet about!

Be helpful - You will frequently see people ask questions in social communities. If you know the answer, or even if you have an opinion or would like to know the answer yourself: by all means respond. Asking and answering questions is one of the best uses for social. You might be amazed how frequently you will get an answer to a very niche specific question from someone else in your industry in a matter of seconds.

Be polite - This may seem obvious, but it is important to note. You will likely encounter frustrating and annoying comments from time to time. You may even encounter someone attacking you or your business verbally. Never assume, and always be professional (just like in the cocktail party analogy) It´s also important to keep in the back of your mind that all we have to go on is text - we loose all our body-language and verbal inflection queues in textual communication - so sometimes what might seem like a rude statement, is just a misread tongue in cheek joke. Always remember what your mother said: "Mind your Ps and Qs and if you don´t have anything good to say best say nothing at all."






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