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Social Media Best Practices for Small Businesses

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By David Byrd

Only 12 percent of SMBs believe that they are getting the most out of their use of social media. I believe it is the trusted adviser's job to communicate to SMB customers how they can better leverage technology and grow their businesses.

Best practices for social media begins with reputation management and that means setting up an account with Google to take advantage of Google Alerts. Google Alerts provide email updates of Web references to your company, products, personnel or even competitors. Getting this information delivered either immediately or periodically (daily, weekly) provides you the opportunity to respond to customer complaints or problems quickly.

In addition to Google Alerts, there are some websites consumers use to rate businesses such as Angie’s List, Ripoff Report and ResellerRatings that SMBs should monitor for both positive and negative reviews. Always respond to negative reviews and do your best to satisfy those customers. Remember one key element of social media is to engage your customers and improve the number of prospects.

Consider that a use of social media is to build an interactive online community. The most commonly used sites are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. However, Google+ ranked the highest in helpfulness with nearly 50 percent of SMBs identifying it as such.

StumbleUpon ranked right between LinkedIn and YouTube in helpfulness, according to an Industry Study of SMBs and Social Media by Vocus. However, it did rank low in terms of the number of SMBs using the service. Other notable sites to build community are Pinterest and Foursquare.

Although it will require a time commitment and theme, the fourth most used social media tool is a blog.

Whatever social media services are chosen, a decision must be made of whether it is best to go to a “home" page or a “landing" page that will lead the prospect to a desired product or service. If the owner does not have time to review their social media activity then they should assign the task to someone in the business or hire a consultant to do it part-time. Analyzing and measuring the success of using social media is critical. If the business does not see an increase in traffic, reduction in customer complaints, more prospective customers, greater community awareness, etc., then the social media strategy needs to change.

Many SMBs wonder about the cost of using social media tools and search engine marketing but the cost can be mitigated by transferring traditional media spending to interactive media spending. In fact as SMBs find success they begin to reduce their spending for direct mail (17 percent reduction) and print ads (53 percent reduction).

According to the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, the top benefits of social media marketing are generating more business exposure (reported by 85 percent) increasing traffic (69 percent) and providing marketplace insight (65 percent).

The message you should deliver to your SMB customer base is “You don’t have to be marketing guru to excel at social media, you just need to develop a plan, execute, evaluate regularly and revise the plan if objectives are not being met."

David Byrd is chief marketing officer and executive vice president of channel sales for ANPI ZONE . He previously spent five years as vice president of marketing and sales for Broadvox and before that was vice president of channels and alliances for Eftia and Telcordia.

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