No business, whether small and local or huge and international, can skip social media these days. But take heart – engaging in social media does not necessarily mean that your business needs to get Pinterest/LinkedIn/Instagram/Snapchat/Tumblr, or whatever the kids are doing these days. As far as we’re concerned, keeping your social media streamlined and effective is the new black.
It can be tempting to expand your online reach by adding new social platforms to your list, but most businesses simply don’t have the time and staff to maintain fresh content on multiple channels. Spreading your content too thin or reproducing it identically on 10 different platforms isn’t a recipe for success, whether you’re looking to increase brand awareness or boost sales. For small businesses, I’d personally suggest Facebook as a starting point, and Twitter if you’re up for a few tweets a day.
The good news is that there are better ways to expand your reach and impressions online than picking up more social media channels. No doubt you already know that networking with industry leaders, organizations and other companies is good business, but have you tried leveraging it to improve your social media strategy? It’s an opportunity worth exploring for a huge range of businesses, from brick-and-mortar retailers to online service providers.
Connecting The Dots Online
Generally speaking, networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships and connections. Building these connections through social media, and with an eye to specific social media benefits, can be as simple as a retweet or Facebook share. Connecting with businesses that share an audience with you (in terms of locality, personal interests, buyer profiles, etc.) can help you introduce new people to your brand, and do the same for those brands or organizations you connect with. It’s a win-win.
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The first step in this process is making sure that you’re socially connected to those businesses and organizations that you already have relationships with. Are you following all of them on Twitter? Have you Liked their Facebook Page (as your Page, of course)? Because those actions come with notifications for the recipient, they’ll likely notice your activity and Like or follow you in return.
Explore Community Resources
The next step is building relationships that are purely social, by connecting with social media accounts that relate to your industry, your audience’s interests, your community, etc. Don’t just consider businesses in this category – there are often Pages that serve topical content based on specific audiences or interests.
In real life (i.e. not just on social media), organizations exist that promote and share businesses like yours – are you networking with them? Does your city’s Chamber of Commerce have a Facebook Page? Is your local small business organization on Twitter? Where I live, there’s a countywide tourism council that generates high-quality content based on what local businesses and non-profits are doing in the area, like seasonal events or restaurant renovations. The tourism council also shares posts, photos and videos from local businesses on their Facebook Page. Networking with an organization like that can help you reach a brand new audience of interested locals and out-of-towners.
Make Yourself Share-Worthy
Since most marketers who operate social media channels are at least aware of the 80/20 rule – even if we don’t always stick to it – there are a lot of brands looking for content to share socially that isn’t their own. Their audiences want to see more than self-promotion, and your content could be something that fits in to fill that need. Connecting socially and generating great content is the one-two punch for getting your business out in front of new eyeballs.
But getting shared across social media platforms doesn’t just have to be about content; there are many reasons your posts, tweets, or business news might be relevant to other audiences. The easiest way to get started is to share the posts or tweets of others you’ve connected with, if it’s relevant to your fans or followers based on interests, location, etc. Social media networking often has a strong you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours ethos, so sharing proactively (only interesting, relevant things, of course) can really pay off down the road.
Be a Social (Media) Member of the Community
If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, or even an online business that offers services to a specific area, you are automatically part of a local community, with all the built-in networks and neighbors that entails. If you establish them, your relationships with organizations, other businesses and people in your area can be mutually beneficial to you on any social platform.
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How this works in practice depends a lot on the community your business is a part of. The type of community varies a lot from place to place – I’m personally in a kale-centric liberal college town area – and the feel of your community will dictate what sort of events, topics and content are sharable. Family friendly local events are a great place to start when you want to expand your social media posts beyond self-promotion, since almost any type of business can expect to have some parents in their audience.
The above post is by a bank in my area that really brands itself as super-local and community oriented, so promoting a free town event is a no-brainer for them. And since they actually posted that event by sharing it from another local business’s Page (a radio station in town), they’re building up some local networking currency as well. Perhaps the next time the bank holds a community event (most recently a pet adoption drive!), the radio station might share it with their fans.
Building new relationships and relying on the ones you already have in your community – whether that’s your industry, your online niche, or a geographic location – is always going to be a smart business practice. If you then optimize that networking in the social media sphere as well, you can reap more quantifiable benefits (new eyeballs on your stuff) online. Both purely digital companies and brick-and-mortar businesses can take advantage of this. It’s not an overnight process – but reach out and connect, and somewhere down the road social media cross-pollination could be a big boost to your reach and reputation.