When running a home-based business, the pressure of completing vital daily actions, in addition to time constraints, means social media strategy may not be your highest priority. But to outreach to an extensive customer base, build your online authority and gain a valuable platform for real-time customer service, it should be.
All social networks are not created equal, however. Brand social media is not a tool exclusive to large organizations, and for home businesses especially, can be crucially beneficial and should play an active role in daily business. Choosing a social channel for business depends on a number of variables, so before selecting one (or jumping straight into all networks) consider:
• What the home business is
• Who the target market is and which channel they are most likely to be active and responsive on
• The nature of the products and services sold
Considering what you want your social strategy to achieve can also help with your decision. For example, if you want to build yourself up as an industry leader, network, or promote your company and yourself through industry based discussion, then LinkedIn may be the most suitable network. But if you're likely to post numerous, frequent news, product and offer updates, and want to target and interact with potential clients more directly, using Facebook or Twitter may be a better route to take.
Of course there's nothing to stop you from using both! If you can meet the time requirements to maintain a dedicated and active presence across numerous social media channels, you'll be presenting a more varied, accessible and authoritative business profile. Just note that you don't have to join all networks at once, and be wary of the dangers and damaging effects which incomplete and sloppy social profiling can have.
Key social networks you may consider choosing include:
LinkedIn acts as a virtual CV, networking and job-hunting tool, and for that reason works well as a B2B social network. Giving you the social status to network as a business figurehead, creating a LinkedIn company page can inform LinkedIn users of your home business, as well as your personal attributes and will showcase your services and company updates. Networking to contact key industry individuals and participation in regular discussion groups can establish your authority as a thought leader within your industry or area of business. It can also allow you as a business owner to advance, network, and raise your professional profile.
Depending upon your business or service offering (this may work well for freelance services for example), LinkedIn can also be an excellent way to source clients.
For most organizations, Twitter is the go-to network. With users expectant and tolerant of much more frequent posting (some more brand active profiles post upward of 10 tweets a day), news, links relevant to your industry, retweets and other shared content can boost your profile. Plus, by taking advantage of Twitter features, such as hashtags, your tweets can be easily found in searches and your presence raised. Allowing you to present an accessible front, promote new product and converse with your client base, Twitter lets you directly access a much wider potential customer base, and can be a great way to gather feedback. Have an active follow and interaction strategy to boost and interact with followers and spread the name of your business.
Regarding the time restraints of being commercially active on Twitter, tweets can be scheduled, searched for and ordered using management applications, such as HootSuite or TweetDeck - meaning all daily social activity can be done at once.
Pinterest & Instagram
For businesses that offer a visually appealing product, having a Pinterest or Instagram account can be incredibly beneficial. Whilst Instagram works well in conjunction with Twitter (owing to its use of hashtags allowing users to locate images) and can be a way to encourage customers to create social content/ their own images related to your brand product, Pinterest works more as a virtual pinboard. Allowing users to 'repin' images of your product (once you have a developed profile), if your product can be aesthetically endorsed, both networks could work very well to an advantage.
This is an excellent tool for home businesses with small audiences who wish to get to know their audience and fans. You can use your page insights to see what sort of content garners the best responses. Facebook is ideal for sharing and is more directly personal than Twitter, so knowing what content (images, links, competitions, etc.) your Facebook followers respond best to, can work to a business advantage in that you can encourage those followers to share your brand content to their own friends and followers as well. As a great place to share news, offers and promotions, Facebook works well for businesses with a wider consumer base, such as fashion or food, and offers a simple approach to customer service (comments and interaction).
Though less popular than the other networks, a Google + presence can be just as important. More relaxed when it comes to self-promotion, Google + allows for status and content sharing as with Facebook and LinkedIn, but importantly, as a Google owned service, means it is linked with all of Google's other products. An active account can provide additional SEO benefit: especially useful for smaller, location-dependent businesses.
Once you've decided which network to use:
Any social network can encourage customers to move from your social profile to your business site, and once you've decided which network(s) to be active on, you should consider some form of basic strategy to build a following - this can be as basic as deciding to use HootSuite to schedule in a certain number of tweets a day and replying to any customer feedback (good or bad), to forming a more comprehensive approach such as following targeted users and ensuring you mix your content between status updates, links, images etc.
The approach you take toward social media will vary depending on the time you have to invest in it, but making this investment can really help launch the profile of a whole business, especially if targeting a local market. You should make it easy for people to access your social networks, connect, share and promote you.
About the Author: Alastair Kane is a freelance writer working for 2touch, a leading provider of fulfillment services helping businesses keep their customers happy.