Social networking and the small business

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The Better Business Bureau has put together a list of 5 considerations for small businesses as they get involved with social networking.

Five Tips for Ensuring Social Media Success in 2010

Better Business Bureau recommends that small business owners ease into the waters thoughtfully when planning to launch a social media strategy; otherwise, they risk abandoning the ship in frustration.Small businesses are shifting their marketing strategy away from expensive ad buys and are increasingly looking toward social media engagement as the less expensive alternative. According to a recent survey by VerticalResponse, Inc., 70 percent of small to medium-sized businesses plan to increase their use of social media in 2010. At the same time, 79 percent say they will not run television ads and 70 percent say they will not make radio buys.

“Small business owners are taking a hard look at their marketing budgets and traditional advertising is becoming too much of a burden in these lean economic times,” said Sheryl Bilbrey, San Diego BBB President/CEO. “Adopting a comprehensive, but manageable, social media strategy can be an inexpensive yet effective way to improve customer relations and spread the word about your business.”

We’ve posted before about how small businesses and home businesses can use social networking sites to their advantage. It does require an investment of time and dedication as well as patience. Results won’t be seen over night. It’s a commitment we make with the understanding that involvement with the community can yield positive results if we engage our customers honestly and transparently.

BBB offers the following advice to small business owners who want to start promoting their company online through social media:

Don’t Get in Over Your Head - If you’re a small business owner who is also the marketing department, the worst thing you could do is launch a large, unmanageable strategy that takes up too much time and ends up neglected. You don’t have to do it all at once.

Create and Share Information – Social media is about engagement, and creating and sharing content is key to connecting with customers and other industry leaders. You may not realize it, but you, as a small business owner, are an expert and have sound advice and informed opinions to share.

Keep everything connected – Once you’ve created your page on Facebook, or established your blog or Twitter account or other online presences, cross-promote your content so that the same message is going out across every site. (This is very easy to do as the ability to share your content with each platform is built right into Twitter and Facebook – Jack)

Engage in the Conversation –An online conversation is taking place right now about your business, your industry or issues affecting your community.

Engage with Customers – Your customers are talking about you online whether you like it or not on their blogs, consumer-focused Web sites and on review sites like Yelp, Yahoo! Local and CitySearch.

Read the full article and see other helpful tips for the SOHO business owner at the Better Business Bureau’s site.

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