Facebook, Twitter and other social-media platforms can serve as valuable tools for small-business owners interested in attracting and retaining customers. But getting a great online presence going isn't as easy as clicking that "like" button.
So we asked The Experts: What is the one tip you would you give the owner of a small business just getting started on social media?
This discussion relates to a recent Journal Report article on venture investors who pay close attention to startups' social-media efforts and formed the basis of a discussion on The Experts blog on Oct. 2.
Entrepreneurs: Stop Being a Social-Media Bore!
MARY LIZ CURTIN : It's not about you, it's about the reader. When you are planning your posts, writing your blog or just hoping people will like you (really, really like you) on Facebook, never forget that the readers, not your message, are the focus. How can you help make their lives better, easier or more fun? What do they really want to hear from you and your business?
Social media provides a number of platforms that can help you communicate with the contacts you already have as well as you broaden your reach, but it only works well if you really have something interesting or meaningful to share and it is directed to the people who want to hear it.
When you have something important to announce, like a sale on shoes or new arrivals, it's pretty easy to write a great post. The tricky part is to avoid becoming repetitive or boring. What else can you say about footwear that will engage your shopper? Look outside your own world and share your spotlight: Talk about your customers (profile a shoe collector less well known than Imelda Marcos), give them handy tips or other helpful content (how to make those shoes last longer, best ways to store them, how to waterproof them for longer wear), think in terms of conversation, not sales.
Make a plan for your social-media efforts: How often will you post, where and what do you need to communicate? Plan your outreach to be interesting, timely and clearly directed to your audience.
A social-media calendar will allow your business be more directed and concise, enables you to focus on creating a varied and interesting menu and helps you keep a consistent voice. Having a rough plan for the next 30-90 days will give you a framework to be sure you cover the things you can plan ahead. Add timely news, events, amusing items and lots of pictures and you will have a brand with following.
It's all about the reader.
Mary Liz Curtin (@marylizcurtin) is the owner of Leon & Lulu, a destination lifestyle store in Detroit.
Companies Shouldn't Confuse Tweeting With Advertising
JOANNE CHANG : Don't farm it out. Don't hire someone to speak for YOU. In order to be successful at social media it has to be genuine. It has to reflect who you are and how you think and what floats your boat. That is what people respond to. I can tell in two tweets if someone is tweeting themselves or having someone tweet for them—as soon as it's clear that they are not doing it themselves it just becomes advertising. Remember that people don't follow businesses on social media because they love reading marketing pitches—they follow you because they are curious about YOU. It's your job on social media to present yourself and your business in a way that interests readers, so show them behind the scenes, struggles, problems, successes, everything, warts and all.