Here at DHR, every day, we work with clients of varying sizes and in a wide range of sectors on their online communications. This ranges from managing the development of new websites, to devising social media strategies and campaigns, to establishing and running social media profiles on a client’s behalf.
Most of us in DHR are internet enthusiasts, eagerly embracing new online tools and trends, and happily tweeting, Instagramming and Facebooking in our spare time.
Because online communications are such a major part of our day-to-day work, we sometimes forget the internet isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
We’ve been going to lots of business networking events this year, and one thing that’s struck us is that ‘traditional’ SMEs – i.e. those working outside of the tech and innovation sectors – can be very reluctant to embrace social media. Time and again, we’ve met small business-owners who don’t know where to start when it comes to building an online presence and who seem intimidated by social media. Others feel it’s just not relevant to them.
What they don’t realise is that, by not being online, they are missing out on potential brand awareness, sales and business development opportunities.
The benefits of social media are well documented at this stage: it’s an incredibly effective and low-cost tool for communication, engagement and promotion. And the number-one reason why SMEs should go online is because their customers and stakeholders are there! In Ireland alone there are 2.2 million Facebook users, and 1.4 million people in Ireland are on Twitter.
So if you’re an SME toying with the idea of social media but don’t know where to begin, here are our top five tips for getting started:
There are hundreds if not thousands of social networks in existence today. Daunting! But it doesn’t have to be. As an SME starting out in the world of social media, your goal should be to identify which social networks will work for you and your business.
Do your research and figure out where your target audience is online – what social networks are they using? Focus on one or two suitable networks at first and establish your social media presence here. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are generally the most popular and a good starting point for companies who want to establish their presence online. If your business produces products or services that are particularly visual (for example, a shop selling furniture or clothes), Instagram or Pinterest might be a good place to start.
If you feel overwhelmed by the range of choices and don’t understand the differences between all these sites, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Find a member of staff who loves using different online tools and pick their brains. Or ask your children or younger family members, or any social-media-savvy friends.
Above all, it’s important to choose an online profile that matches the resources you have to devote to it. Twitter needs daily updating and monitoring, so it’s possibly not the best option if you are only prepared to spend 30 minutes on a Friday afternoon for your social media efforts.
Do a bit of lurking & get familiar with the tool you’re using and see how others use it well. It would be useful to set up personal profiles for yourself in order to get accustomed to the medium before establishing profiles for your brand.
Social media gives you the opportunity to put a face to your business and let your company’s personality shine through. Interacting with your customers, service-users and other stakeholders through social media can be much more informal, so you can have some fun and be a bit quirkier in your communications.
Caveat: always remember to be polite and courteous at all times and post nothing on social media that you would not like to see splashed across a newspaper’s front page!
Nobody likes a person who just talks about themselves all the time. Your social media presence should give something back to your followers and fans – it can be a great place to share tips and advice related to your business and your areas of expertise, and provide information about what your audience is interested in.
It’s not enough to just set up a Facebook page or a Twitter account and send out messages in a very one-sided way. Social media is a dialogue, not a monologue!
Make sure you are asking your audience questions, engaging them in your posts, and – most importantly – that you can respond in a timely manner when they ask questions of you.
The more comments, questions and other interactions you get on your posts, the better: this shows you are truly beginning to engage and have a conversation with your target audience.
It’s crucial that you post regularly and ensure your online presence doesn’t turn into a ‘social media graveyard’. We’ve all seen Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that were set up in haste and, after a couple of tweets or posts, completely abandoned. It looks bad and can impact negatively on a brand’s reputation.
We know SMEs are stretched for resources, and it can be a challenge to find the time to dedicate to social media. However – see point one! – if you have chosen the right channel(s) for your business and you are starting small, the likelihood that you will disappear and stop updating will be much less.
It would be advisable to not go all guns blazing and set up a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus, Vine, Snapchat and Instagram for your business all at once. Especially if there is only one person responsible for updating and creating content. Take it slowly and establish yourself, posting regularly in one or two social networks at first.
Overall, you must be prepared to give some time to developing your social media presence or it won’t work. Don’t be disheartened if your followers don’t build up overnight – it takes time to slowly build up a following. The most important thing to remember is not to be scared and enjoy yourself!
For more information on DHR’s work in online communications, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 01-4200580.