Social Media Secrets for Small Business Success

Contrary to popular belief, not every big company is putting big bucks into spreading their brand and employer message via social media at work.

Most corporate social media functions have limited headcount, time and resources dedicated to social networks, demanding low-cost, innovative approaches for attracting and driving social media engagement, both current and potential.

That means the social media playing field for businesses has been leveled.

Small business recruitment strategies actually have a leg up when it comes to realizing the power (and profit) of social media. Breaking through the buzz doesn’t require a huge investment in manpower, tools or technologies. It takes dedication, creativity and experimentation to formulate and deliver the right message to the right targets on the right platforms — in other words, it requires a solid small business marketing strategy.

While there’s no “secret formula” for success, there are secrets that every small business owner should know when it comes to crafting a social media strategy. Here are eight social media secrets designed to give you a head start on the competition and capitalize on the conversation about your brand, business and bottom line.

Fax machines send the wrong message: Nothing makes your business appear behind the times more than advertising your fax number throughout your e-mail signatures, HTML newsletters, home pages and business cards. Ask yourself when was the last time you likely received an unsolicited fax which led directly to sales? More than likely, it’s back when you were jamming to an eight-track tape.

Secret: Exchange the prime real estate your fax number now takes up and replace it with links to your social profiles. Doing so instantly brands your business, signaling your willingness to engage with your customers and candidates. Besides, in the off chance someone needs your fax number, they’ll know where to find you to ask.

What the Hashtag? It’s a good idea not to jump into the Twitter conversation right away; it’s challenging to know which conversations you should follow when you’re starting out. Even harder is cracking the hashtag code. solves both problems with one easy to use website that’s free (and you don’t even have to register).

Simply enter any hashtag into the search bar, and within seconds it displays top users, definitions, usage statistics and related resources. The best part, though, is its transcription service.

It easily captures a word processing-friendly transcript of all tweets using that hashtag over a user-defined period of time so you can read (and report) without constantly monitoring your feed. Why do that? Because you’ve got more important things to do.

Hint: For small business owners, popular hashtags include #smbiz, #smallbiz and #startup.

Blast Follow: Once you’ve found out which hashtags you’re most interested in, enter them into to automatically generate a list of all accounts referencing them. Put in your Twitter credentials, click blast, and you’ll start following all those users “en masse.’

You Don’t Have To Pay To Measure ROI: A growing number of corporations are using increasingly sophisticated tracking tools to monitor and measure the success of their social media efforts, paying a premium for advanced analytics, reporting and analysis.

While these technologies make sense for Fortune 500 Companies, your small business can generate more than enough data using free tools to maximize the influence and impact of your social media efforts.

When it comes to making friends on Facebook and YouTube, both channels provide self-generated reports for channel and fan page activity, respectively; this simply requires opting in on your business account to see analytics that are easy to understand and interpret. For Twitter, Twitter Analyzer is just one of many free options that provides advanced and accurate analytics. It’s a goldmine of actionable data, tracking unique readers, reach, retweet trends and most tweeted topics among its many reporting capabilities. When it comes to measuring your blog, Google Analytics remains the gold standard for its insights and interface. This “deep web” people search engine can help fill in the blanks about almost anyone. If you have a name, phone number, e-mail address or even a social networks username, this free tool will return all available online data within seconds, from public records to social profiles.

E-Mail Still Matters: Even with the rise in social media, most of your customers and clients, both current and prospective, likely still rely predominantly on email for communication. But for your message to break through today’s increasingly crowded inbox, you need more than a clever subject line.

For email marketing, check out Mail Chimp, which allows you to create, distribute and track customized HTML newsletter campaigns that can help small businesses make a big impact.

Their “forever free” plan lets you send up to 6,000 e-mails to up to 1,000 subscribers a month; if you need more, their pay for performance model guarantees you get what you pay for.

Case Studies Are Learning Experiences Social media’s all about transparency, which means that many companies make valuable information about their social media objectives and strategy publically available.

Reading case studies not only highlights real-life examples of social media initiatives that really work, but more importantly, what doesn’t. Two of the most comprehensive sites for social media best (and worst) practices are the Social Media Business Council and SmartBrief on Social Media, with new cases delivered daily to your inbox.

Finally, there are no secrets in social media…and that’s the point.

But you didn’t hear that from us.

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