This post is by Brooke Howell, SmartBrief’s small-business editor.
Women business owners need a different strategy for handling social media because they don’t have time to sit around on Facebook and Twitter all day long, says Lena West, CEO and chief strategist of xynoMedia.
They also can’t just ignore social media or decide not to participate in it because it “isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate,” West said during her presentation, “Your Social Media Fulcrum: How to Leverage Social Media to Build Your Brand AND Get More Business,” on June 11 at the National Association of Women Business Owners‘ 2010 Women’s Business Conference in Washington, D.C.
West’s 12-point road map to social media for small-business owners, summarized below, is a great tool for women and anyone who feels overwhelmed by the technology and unsure how to use it to increase business without wasting time and money.
- Why are you doing this? It’s not because it’s cool or because everyone else is, says West. You need to be where your customers are online, so you can reach them. It doesn’t matter if you’re clueless or scared of social media; if your customers are there, you need to “suck it up and get over” whatever it is that’s holding you back. If you don’t know where your customers are online, then you need to ask them and find out.
- Watch out for “experts.” “Everyone and their mother” is a social-media expert, West says. The real experts are the ones for whom social media is a job — one they get paid to do through writing, speaking and consulting, West explains. Even among the legitimate experts, you can’t listen to them all because you just don’t have time, so pick a few and consider their advice seriously.
- Know your “why?” and use it to guide you. This is the reason that you’re engaging in social media — and it has to be a good one because it’s what you will use to keep you motivated so you won’t get bored and stall out, explained West. You aren’t just trying to get on social media — that’s just the avenue. You’re after the endgame. That endgame is different for each person, and could include building visibility, becoming a thought leader, getting more media coverage or connecting with customers, she notes.
- Don’t try to add social media to your already packed schedule. Examine your marketing and find out what’s working and what’s not, then cut the stuff that isn’t. It could be your newsletter, e-mail or direct mailings, but whatever it is, you can take the time and energy you were wasting on it and devote them to social media, West recommends.
- Use the right tool for the job. Selecting the wrong tool is costly in terms of time, money and resources, says West. The right tool for one business may not be the right tool for another — if people in your market don’t have time to sit down and read your blog, it’s not going to make a difference even if you are putting amazing information on it.
- Get social media onto your calendar. “Here’s the deal with social media: If you don’t make time to do it, you will never do it,” said West. Your calendar reflects your true priorities are, and if social media is going to be a true priority, it needs to be there.
- Keep cool, calm and collected. Stay organized and in control — organization helps alleviate the anxiety that may come with trying to do social media. Remember, not everyone who tries to get your attention actually deserves it
- Create your short list. This is the list of which social-media services/tools you will use and which you will ignore. You need to ask your clients where they’re at online and where they might want to connect with your business, and that’s where you want to be, said West. You don’t need to ask every client, just talk to a few of the best or the most responsive.
- Set boundaries. Who will you friend and who will you ignore? You shouldn’t engage with everyone everywhere, so set your own rules and boundaries for each service you’re on. For example, West said she allows everyone to follow her on LinkedIn, but only people she really knows can be her friends on Facebook.
- Don’t think you’re replacing anything. Social media is like makeup, explains West: “If you ain’t pretty, it’s not going to make you pretty.” Social media only enhances what you already have, so don’t stop doing things that work and replace them with social media, just stop doing the things that don’t work (see No. 4).
- Get business. Business isn’t always a sale. It can be a new client, media coverage, a connection who will make a referral, a book deal and more. To get it, you need to use the Rule of Reciprocity, which is really just a rip-off of the golden rule, West explained — if you want comments on your blog, you need to comment on other blogs; if you want people to talk to you on Twitter, you need to talk to other people on Twitter.
- Measure. That’s the only way you’ll know if your social-media efforts are on track or not because what doesn’t get measured gets ignored, says West. First figure out what you want to measure — Facebook fans, retweets, visitors to your blog, etc. — then do it regularly so you can measure like to like. Use that information to recognize a derailed effort and make the necessary changes to your strategy, she says.
Image credit: skodonnell via iStockphoto