Liz Hover writes: I met designer Grace Smith on Twitter. I was immediately attracted to the way she tweeted for two reasons: first, she’s friendly and second, she tweets some damn fine links.
I found out more about Grace and it was obvious that she’s social media savvy; She runs her own design company and has leveraged social media to help build that business.
I asked if she’d share some of that knowledge with you and provide tips and guidance on how small businesses can use sites like Facebook and Twitter to strengthen their presence online.
Effective use of social media means focusing on building your brand and your reputation. Many small businesses hear the buzz surrounding sites like Twitter but don’t know where or how to start using social media to develop their brand.
This list hopes to compile five of the core ways small businesses can start using social media to brand their business, engage with their customers, build trust in their brand and position themselves as a valuable contributor to the community.
1. Build powerful profiles
Building consistent, strong profiles across your chosen social media sites will help people gain familiarity with your brand and they will begin to seek you out and follow you via your site or other profiles.
Your social media profiles can help your brand create a powerful presence and allows users to put a face to the brand name. It’s therefore important to craft a strong bio and consistent avatar across any social media sites you participate in.
This creates brand recognition which is one of every business owner’s core goals. Brand recognition will enable you to become instantly recognisable and developed properly will eventually lead to brand preference and loyalty.
2. Listen, engage and converse
Signing up to social media sites and setting your profiles on autopilot isn’t going to cut it if you want to establish your brand and grow your business. You need to build a profile, connect with others (most importantly with your target market) and join in the conversation.
Social media is about building and strengthening relationships, listening and interacting with others. It’s called ‘social’ media for a reason, you have to create a valuable ongoing dialogue with others around you.
In essence by adding valuable information, good creative content and engaging with others you will prove your brand is a consistently valuable resource and a thoughtful contributor to the community. This not only builds trust in your brand but people will also relate your brand with quality.
3. Be genuine and provide value
One of the core principles of using social media is to expand your network and provide value to build awareness, trust and reputation in your brand. For small businesses this means developing ongoing, genuine and valuable interactions between your target market and your brand.
By genuinely and sincerely engaging others you will develop friends and contacts who will also begin recommending your blog or website to others. From this you will see your overall traffic increase organically as people link to you and promote your content because you have proven to be a valuable source of information.
Social media is not a get rich scheme; giving the hard sell and continually pushing your own agenda will get you nowhere. Rather by regularly participating and proving to be a valuable person in peoples’ networks you will be rewarded over the long term rather than just visiting when you think you can benefit.
4. Develop an authority blog
Blogging removes the barrier between your brand and your target market by pulling the conversation scattered across your various social networks to one place where you can develop a deeper, focused conversation with your readers and potential consumers.
It also increases your reach within the online community and gives you a place to share your interest and passion for your niche, product or service.
Through a blog you can begin the process of positioning yourself as an expert and credible content producer which not only acts as an extension of your brand but helps reinforce it. In turn it will help people develop a trust with your brand, ultimately helping your business.
Essentially a blog is a representation of you online so carefully crafting your content so it supports the key messages you wish to convey is at the core of building your brand.
5. Personalise your brand
You are the CEO of your brand and it won’t survive if it’s stale, boring and outdated.
Does your brand have a personality? Or is it just a name on your business card and letterhead?
It shouldn’t be.
Your brand should be able to stand on it’s own with a unique personality that you can carefully craft with the help of social media.
As a small business your brand needs to have human characteristics which people can relate to. Your ‘brand voice’ should reflect the personality traits of your brand, for example if your brand is extroverted and edgy, does it reflect this or does it sound quiet and plain? If you are your brand (i.e. as a freelancer) then you need to be authentic, express your personality and provide value.
Spending time working on keywords which summarise the characteristics of your brand will help you develop an individual and unique voice which consumers can relate to and recognise.
Engaging in social media can be an extremely fun, informative and profitable experience. It’s also an invaluable branding tool which can help to grow your network and interact with people you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
By effectively using social media sites I have been able to craft a strong personal brand which I have been able to translate into my business – Postscript5.
You can’t however be active at every social site in a consistent valuable way, so choose just a few where your customers are and concentrate your efforts there.
It’s important to remember that engaging in social media shouldn’t replace your other promotional activities or affect your actual workload. With that said, it can be a key tool to build your brand and your business if used correctly and effectively.
Grace Smith is the owner of Postscript5, a small design studio based in Northern Ireland, UK.
Grace has a passion for Web Standards and User Interface design, and enjoys working with a variety of entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout the UK and USA.
She enjoys using her abundance of creative energy to create and develop a variety of personal projects, including CSS Loaf.
Her newly established blog at gracesmith.co.uk has been hugely successful within its short life span and she continues to write with a passion on design, social media and technology.
She also has a love of huge sunglasses!