social media for small business

By Cheryl Biron

Of every hour Americans spend online, 16 minutes are spent on social networks, according to Experian. In January 2012, I had personal accounts on LinkedIn and Facebook, but I knew nothing about Twitter and my business had no company pages on any social media sites.

That changed when I went to a social media learning event through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) of New Jersey. The expert – Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia – spoke about how he used social media in his company and emphasized that it is the way people will communicate in the future.

I realized my buisness would need to start establishing a presence, even though the transportation industry was not active on social media sites. Our competitors were not using social media, so it was easy to overlook it, but the learning event encouraged us to become a pioneer in our industry. Right after the event, I began building a presence for our business on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as creating a company blog.

Here are my tips on getting started with social media from scratch:

  1. Be the voice of your business. Vaynerchuk recommended we learn social media ourselves instead of hiring someone to handle it. There are tons of social media experts who can write your blog and social media posts, but voice matters. Having an employee handle social media results in a stronger message. Employees also have a better idea of what is going on with the company day-to-day. It may take some time to learn the ins and outs of social media, but it’s worth it.
  2. Set a schedule. I update our company blog every two weeks. When we initiated our social media plan, I wrote enough posts to have a backlog. That way I don’t have to write a blog post when I’m busy with other things. I plan on two LinkedIn posts per week, which could include interacting in a discussion or posting about an event I went to or an article I read.
  3. Create a minisite. Social media can go beyond Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging. For example, we created a minisite for recruiting. Young people communicate on social media, so using it for hiring was a great place to start. The minisite helped potential employees learn more about our company and the job beyond just a job description. We used it to advertise on job boards. To take it a step further, I also linked to it in LinkedIn conversations.
  4. Provide a variety of content. In addition to interesting article or things I learn from events, I share company news on our social media sites. It’s important to share valuable information so that your followers gain something from you. If you’re too promotional, you may lose followers on all mediums. Social media sites are also a great place to promote blog posts.
  5. Interact with your followers. Questions are some of my favorite things to post on all social media sites. It’s a great way to engage your followers and keep them invested in the brand. We’ve also learned some important information by asking our followers questions. For example, I recently shared our biggest challenge for 2014 and asked for suggestions. There was some valuable feedback, and it is always beneficial to hear directly from customers and potential employees. I also posted to social media when my company won an award, and people I had never met commented to congratulate us.
  6. Don’t forget about discussions on LinkedIn. In addition to posting on LinkedIn, I monitor industry discussions and contribute when applicable. One person recognized my picture on our website from a LinkedIn discussion I had participated in, and it gave him a positive impression of our company. Now, he’s a customer. Social media is better than just an advertisement because potential customers can see that your business is active.

Just two years after starting with social media, my business has more than 170 Twitter followers, 150 Facebook fans and more than 235 LinkedIn followers. I enjoy the opportunity to interact with our existing and potential customers and employees, and it’s been beneficial to our business.

Cheryl Biron is president and CEO of One Horn Transportation and Discover co-chair for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) of New Jersey.