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Has Social Media Gone Mainstream for Business?

A recent USA Today article claims that “Small businesses use social media to grow”and quotes Smashburger’s Jeremy Morgan, Senior VP of marketing and consumer insights as saying, “Social media is an opportunity for us to engage with consumers and have a conversation, which is different than paid media, when you’re just shouting through a bullhorn.”

But is it right for small businesses? “That ability to engage in a conversation with your customers is one of the main appeals of social media for small businesses, because these are businesses who are typically more connected with their customers any way, as compared to their larger counterparts,” said Social Media Strategist Caroline Melberg. “But that ability is only leveraged when business owners use social media properly. One of the biggest challenges business owners tell me they have with social media is coming up with creative, interesting things to say to initiate that conversation.”

To get started, Melberg shared these tips for creating meaningful conversations using social media:

–       Be authentic!  If you’re not a marathon runner, for instance, don’t pretend to be one online.  Be your true, authentic self and share what you are really interested in.

–       Ask questions. When someone posts something on Facebook or Twitter that you are curious about, ask them for more information. Show that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.

–       Answer questions. When someone in your network asks a question about something you are familiar with, provide an answer for them. Send them to a resource online, give them information or help direct them to someone who does know.

–       Be a Go Giver, not a Go Getter.  Approach social media like you would any relationship, and plan to give before you get. By helping people in your network you’ll become viewed as a trusted resource that people can rely upon, and your credibility will increase as a result.

“Once we started truly interacting with our customers and created a community, we began to see an increase in interest and customers,” said South Carolina entrepreneur Brian Henry, who sells pimento cheese with his wife, Sassy.

In the always-on, connected world of social media, becoming a trusted resource is your goal, as it keeps you top of mind with your network of potential prospects and current clients so you are the one they think of when they need your products or services, or when they have a referral to send your way.

Published on: February 17, 2012