Can Social Networking Save Small Businesses?

Social networking is all the buzz these days. But Trent Hamm, author of The Simple Dollar, makes some good points in considering whether it is right for your business or not. Here’s what he observes.

When I walk down Main Street, I don’t see YouTube videos or Twitter names. I see people trying to make ends meet, whose hours are already chock full to the brim and who don’t see how such online promotions can help them.

While sitting in the lobby of a local auto repair shop recently, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What could this business possibly get out of Twitter or YouTube or Facebook?” Most of their clientele is outside the tech-savvy demographic.

If you want to actually make social networking cost effective for your small brick-and-mortar business, here are several ways to do it.

First, don’t duplicate effort. Many businesspeople feel like they need to be on several platforms at once – and that takes a lot of time. Instead, sign up for only a few services – like Twitter and Facebook – and then centralize most of your participation. For example, you can post things on Twitter and have them automatically appear on Facebook by logging onto Facebook and setting up the Twitter application there.

Second, make it easy for people to find you. Put your Twitter or your Facebook ID out there on your business cards and ads so people can find it.

Third, participate in the conversations that you find. Once a day or so, visit these sites and see whether or not any conversations that relate to you – and participate in them. Offer what you know – and be honest about it.

Fourth, offer deals. Go on Twitter and offer up a coupon code for your business. If they come in and say they’re using the “March coupon,” they’ll get $5 off their total bill or maybe get a voucher for a free oil change.

Finally, keep in mind why you’re doing this. For a small businessperson, the reason to get involved is to retain existing customers and perhaps draw in new ones. The best way to do that is to be human and responsive. Answer questions and be lighthearted, but don’t obsess.

Social media does not have to be a big time drain. Instead, it can be a very inexpensive and simple way to retain customers and perhaps find a few new ones with little effort and almost no cost at all. You don’t need an extensive online media plan or a high-priced consultant – just go sign up for an account or two, keep it simple, tell your customers about it, and share what you can.

Source: money-trent-hamm.