social media small business

By Aaron Hollobaugh

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can be a great marketing tool for small businesses. If handled effectively and deployed as part of a larger marketing strategy, social media can help you build your brand, reach out to new prospects and stay in touch with existing customers.

But before reaching out to customers on social media, it’s important to commit to a consistent strategy and make sure you know how to avoid common pitfalls. Here are some tips to help you launch a positive, productive social media campaign for your small business, then keep it on track:

1. Choose your platform wisely: Each social media platform is geared for different functions, so look at your unique business needs and choose the social media venue that works for your business. Twitter can be ideal for a food truck or other mobile business since it allows users to easily push out updates. Pinterest can be a great venue for a bakery, gallery or other enterprise offering products with high visual appeal. Facebook may work best for a company that seeks direct customer engagement.

2. Keep tabs on what people are saying: Remember that social media participation is a two-way street. It’s important to keep tabs on direct customer interactions (e.g., likes, followers, retweets, etc.), but being aware of indirect discussions about your company is also crucial. Set up automated alerts to keep track of when your business is discussed online via sites like

3. Adopt a welcoming, casual tone: When writing posts for Facebook, a company blog, or Twitter, it’s advisable to drop the marketing-speak and adopt a more casual, conversational tone that is still professional. It’s helpful to have someone proofread the copy before you post. Since social media is used primarily for personal communication, a friendly tone works best.

4. Give customers a reason to interact with you: If you want customers to keep visiting your Facebook page or following you on other platforms, you’ll have to give them something of value in return. Offer discount codes, access to online information (white papers, for example), business updates (expanded hours, upcoming sales, etc.) or ask customers for input on new services or products you’re considering. The will let customers know that they are valued and give them a reason to return.

5. Be careful when responding to criticism: When you open the door for communication with customers via social media channels, you have to be prepared to respond to negative as well as positive feedback. It’s important to keep your cool and stay professional, even in response to an unfounded and highly personal attack. The worst thing to do is to respond in kind to that sort of attack, which will only attract more attention to the problem customer and escalate the situation. Try offering to work on a resolution via email, which makes you look reasonable and productive and can take the dispute out of the public eye.

Aaron Hollobaugh is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Hostway Corporation (@hostway), a leading hosting company that provides support to SMBs on everything from offering infrastructure guidance to making sure operations run smoothly on a day-to-day basis.