Social Media Marketing Tips for Frustrated Small Business Owners

Are your social media marketing efforts bringing you the results you want?

Do you even KNOW what results you want?

That’s a rather important first step, I’ve learned. When I took an intensive one-day continuing education course on social media for small business a year ago, I must confess to having been completely overwhelmed several times throughout the day. I wasn’t the only one.

To many of us, social media is daunting. It’s one thing to post a cute photo of me and my dog on Facebook. It’s quite another to learn how to use social media as an effective marketing tool that will lead to results – but that doesn’t require an enormous amount of time, energy and money.

Once I determined the results I was looking for – new readers and ultimately, more book sales – I had to ask myself the next obvious question: was posting my dog’s photo on Facebook going to achieve that?

Er… no. At least not directly.

Okay, then how about my tendency to write and post blogs that only a handful of people – the vast majority of whom have already bought my book – will read: is that going to yield more book sales?

You get my drift.

That’s why I took the class. And frankly, sitting in a computer lab for 8 hours, learning about SEO and hashtags, tribes and Google analytics wasn’t just overwhelming, it was exhausting.

Another, ahem, middle-aged writer in the class put it perfectly when she said to our 20-something instructor: “You are a social media native. We are social media immigrants. We’re still learning the language, the culture, the lay of the land… and to be honest, it’s not only frustrating and confusing – most of us don’t even want to be here! We’re here because we have to be. We know we have to learn this so our businesses can survive.”

Here, here!

And even though I didn’t understand half of what the instructor was saying – while patiently showing us on the overhead screens – I dutifully took detailed notes and crossed my fingers they might make more sense later on.

And sure enough, something interesting happened on the drive home. All that the instructor had said started to click into place… as it related to my company.

By the time I got home, I’d stopped perceiving social media networking as yet another ‘marketing thing’ I had to figure out and conquer because I needed the sales – and instead started to view it as an incredibly useful tool that, when used correctly, would help me reach new people who wanted to hear from me.

In other words, the internal barriers I had towards social media started to dissipate.

When I got home, I read through all my notes and highlighted the key points. Then I set a clear, tangible goal of what I wanted to achieve through my social networking efforts (number of website visitors who actually spent time reading my blogs). Then I determined exactly which social media platforms I was going to use and how. Then I made a SHORT list of the tasks I needed to do and when I was going to do them over the next six weeks.

And since the best way to learn something new is to teach it to someone else, I jotted down a few pointers from the course for other small business owners out there who might also be stumbling – frustrated and confused – through the cyber-wilderness called social media.

10 social media marketing tips for the not-so-techno-savvy small business owner:

1. You have to determine what results you want to achieve from your social networking efforts. Increased visitors to your website? Increased product or service sales? Increased number of subscribers to your e-zine?

2. You need to figure out who your market/s is. Then you need to find your market… your peeps, your tribes.

3. You will need to do a bit of trial and error to determine which social media platform/s is best for you to connect with your tribes: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. You don’t need to do them all – and I suggest you don’t even try.

4. Facebook is excellent for connecting with friends and maintaining relationships. In my case, as a writer it is a great way to share snapshots of my life – but not necessarily my writing.

5. Twitter is great for connecting with like-minded people you don’t know. Twitter is a fantastic way to build a buzz about your business or product. Twitter is where I am really starting to see some action, at least in terms of increasing the number of visitors to my website. But this only started to happen once I began using hashtags.

6. Hashtags are really important to use in your tweets because they help target who will see your posts. Hashtags are all about the use of key words that pinpoint your subject matter.

For example, since my book is about grief, I often use #grief when tweeting about the book. And low and behold, Twitter users who are looking for content about grief can find my tweet. So be sure to do a hashtag search first to ensure you are using the correct word/term to reach the people you want to reach.

7. Retweet other people’s tweets! And don’t be afraid to favourite someone else’s tweet now and then, either. Social media is social – it’s not just about you.

8. LinkedIn is not a sales platform (oops). LinkedIn is about connecting to like-minded professionals. It’s a great place to learn about what the people in your industry are up to and to share ideas, job postings, etc. I am also finding that it’s a great way to get readers to visit my website to read my blogs – but ONLY if I take the time to write a brief catchy blurb about the blog (using key words), that will actually catch their attention.

9. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is basically just the key words you need to use in your blog posts, article titles, web pages, tweets, etc so that search engines can find them. Here’s a quick trick to see how search engine optimized you are: Google the key words that pertain to your business and see if you or your business comes anywhere near the first page of rankings (which is where you want to be).

10. Google Analytics tracks your social marketing efforts. You set this up on your website and then you can see who is visiting your site, how long they are staying, which pages they are visiting, where they’ve come from, etc. This is very important because if you don’t know what is working and what isn’t, you won’t be able to tweak your efforts accordingly.

In my experience, using social media to effectively market one’s small business, products and services does take time and effort to figure out.

But once I shifted my attitude from feeling that I had to learn about it to an attitude of embracing the incredible opportunities that social media can offer, I began to realize that as a writer, social media means I can reach far more readers than I could twenty years ago. And I am seeing significantly more visitors to my website… and yes, they are even taking time to read my blogs.