When used effectively, social media channels are essential tools for today’s entrepreneur and small-business owner. Twitter and Facebook in particular lead to valuable insights into the latest trends and customer perceptions. Both channels also provide marketing opportunities that as an entrepreneur you cannot ignore.
Creating communities on Twitter and Facebook and building followers is a superb way to stay in the public eye, quickly announce new product launches or services and build a positive online reputation.
The same positives, however, turn quickly into negatives if you’re not careful. One angry and vocal customer has the same power you do to write posts and share with followers. You can’t erase the possibility of negatives but if you follow best-practice guidelines and processes when you use social media, you’ll reduce the negatives and enhance the benefits.
Here’s what you need to know.
Twitter for Business Best Practices
With a monthly user base of 328 million, Twitter is a powerhouse when it comes to getting the word out fast, gaining instant access to industry news and communicating with customers. When it was first introduced, Twitter was a new way of connecting people. The 140-character limit and unusual terminology didn’t seem conducive to engagement. As people became used to what at first seemed like limitations, however, Twitter quickly evolved into an effective tool for the entrepreneur.
Here’s a quick overview of Twitter terminology:
- Tweet: Tweets are updates posted on Twitter that contain text, links, GIFs, videos and photos.
- Reply: Users reply to posted tweets with text, photos and videos.
- Retweet: A user shares another user’s tweet.
- Like: Users click the heart-shaped “like” icon as a positive acknowledgement.
- Hashtag: A word or phrase that begins with the # character and contains no spaces. Used for content related to a specific topic, hashtags are searchable and, when highly popular, are listed as “Trending Topics.”
- Mention: A user brings a tweet to someone else’s attention by including their profile name (@profile) within the tweet.
Keep in mind that Twitter works best when you use it to educate, support and authentically interact with followers. Social media is not the place for the hard sell. Your followers expect to learn, communicate and become engaged enough to keep coming back.
Compelling content and interactive communication is what keeps followers engaged. How do you keep followers interested? Follow these tips:
- Post short-and-sweet tweets. You pretty much have to keep it short on Twitter, but your tweets also have to make an impact. Don’t try to fit several topics in one tweet. Stick to a specific message and, if you want to convey a longer message, add a link.
- Add subject-related videos, images or GIFs to your tweets. Users are three times more likely to show interest in tweets with visual images than those with plain text.
- Utilise hashtags. Because hashtags and related content show up in searches, the proper use of keyword-rich hashtags within tweets is a highly effective way of reaching a larger audience. Do not use more than two hashtags per tweet, however.
- Use polls and ask questions to engage followers. Ask for feedback using open-ended questions. Use a Twitter poll to discover opinions and trends.
- Make connections. Don’t just ask questions—respond to answers. When users ask a question, answer them.
Twitter provides a number of tools for the entrepreneur and business owner. For example, you can let users know you provide customer support by turning Twitter’s support indicators on and displaying the times you are available.
Another particularly useful tool is the transition from public conversation to direct message. Direct messages may be more appropriate when you’re providing support to a specific customer or resolving a problem.
Entrepreneurs, Small Business and Facebook
Facebook is the ideal social media channel for showing the world who you are and what your business is about and for giving customers a chance to get to know the people behind the facade. As with all social media, it’s not about the hard sell, but creating a community.
An effective Facebook page for the entrepreneur and small-business owner includes a short, concise description of what you do, a profile photo and a cover photo. Your profile picture displays at 170×170 pixels on computers, 128×128 pixels on most smartphones and 36×36 pixels on feature phones. Photos will be cropped to fit.
The picture should either be of you, or in the case of a small business, a storefront or company logo. The optimum cover photo size is 851×315 pixels with a file size less than 100 kilobytes. The cover photo should also relate to your business or profession. If you have a storefront, use the included Facebook tools to add open hours, driving directions and maps.
Facebook gives you a lot of space to post messages, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it all. Short and sweet works best here, too. Users simply will not spend time reading a lot of text. Optimally, posts should be 100–120 characters. Posts with subject-related graphics get more attention than text-only posts.
Facebook is specifically designed for community building. Engage followers in a variety of ways. Ask simple, open-ended questions to encourage feedback. Conduct polls. One of the most effective ways to encourage participation and garner shares is to sponsor contests. To enter, users must like, comment on or share a specific post.
Vary your Facebook posts using content, how-to advice, customer participation posts and links to related content from other sources. Share relevant information on your page. Also sprinkle in posts about new products or services you offer, sales and other promotions. Respond quickly to customer posts with feedback, answers to questions and support information when required. Never leave a follower hanging.
Remember: In social media, it’s community first, promotion second.
Final tip: Even if you do all the right things, you’re bound to come across someone who’s not happy with you. Don’t lose your cool. Your reputation hinges not on being perfect (no person or business is) but on how well you handle problems when they arise.