Are you trying to maximize social media in your business? In today’s guest post, Shashi Bellamkonda shares 5 tips for effectively using social media.

I was invited to be on the Panel  “Technology and Social Media Strategies for Small Businesses” at the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce last month. When you are on a panel, you learn as much as you share. Here are five key questions that attendees asked, and the tips that the panelists shared.

1.     Why should small businesses engage in social media?

  • To get feedback on what customers think of the business
  • To listen in real time to conversations about your business, your competitorsyou’re your community
  • To read reviews and hear conversations about your business
  • To reach new audiences that you have not engaged with befor

2.     What are the first basic steps for small businesses to get started in social media?

  • Set your goals and objectives beforehand.
  • Start listening by setting up Google alerts and using or
  • Allot some resources and time. Once committed, it may be a bad idea to withdraw, so don’t overcommit.
  • Set a social media policy with at least a few basic guidelines for employees to follow. One resource:
  • Have a website, which should be the hub for your online presence, and center social media activity around it.

3.     Which social media sites should a small business start with?

  • Let your customers guide you. Find out where they are spending most of their time on social media and begin there.
  • For BtoB businesses, LinkedIn is very important.
  • Search for your name, product name and company name and see what search results come up. Then update all the profiles that come up in your search.
  • Use blogs to tell the story of you and your employees to humanize the business.
  • Integrate your other marketing efforts with social media. Let all your social followers know if there is a good offer on your website or in your store, or great content in your newsletter.
  • Use techniques like Facebook gating to provide relevant and interesting content to your Facebook fans.

4.     How should a small business promote its social networks?

  • Make sure your business website has the ability to share the content on social networks. Sites like or will do this easily for you.
  • Add your social networks to your email signatures and business cards.
  • Ask people to check out your social media sites when you meet them offline.
  • Combine online connections with offline meetings. Don’t just interact online.
  • Claim your business on Yelp! and use opportunities to let people know that your business is on Yelp!. Put signage in your business telling people you are on Yelp! so they can review your business. If you claim your business on review sites like Yelp!, you can also respond directly to people who review your business.

5.     What should a small business measure and how?

  • Make sure you have Google Analytics for your website. You can use the tracking feature in Google Analytics to track specific social media campaigns.
  • Use Facebook Insights for more metrics on engagement on Facebook.
  • Use coupon codes and referral IDs to track social media traffic.
  • Ask customers on the phone or in person where they heard about you.
  • Always evaluate whether your performance has reached the goals you have set. Measure the additional business you gained due to your social media efforts.

It is very important to stay focused and also not to overly promote yourself. For every four to five pieces of content you produce that helps solve a problem for your audience, you can probably promote yourself once. Always allocate time to respond in social media, just as you would for phone calls and emails. Social media is a conversation between you and many, so avoid one-sided conversations. Since most social media conversations are public, being upfront and using simple language in communications will go a long way in engaging people to listen to you. Answer questions and help others by sharing your knowledge.

Do you have any other tips you would like to add to this list?

Thanks to the panel participants: moderator Julie Diaz-Asper, President & CEO of GigCoin, and panelists Claudio Meira, Senior Web Developer at Ogilvy Social, Kristin Mink, DC Community Manager for Yelp.

Shashi Bellamkonda is Senior Director, Social Media at (parent company of Network Solutions) and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University.

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