This post is one in a series of tips designed to guide small business owners through the challenges of today’s startup environment and is sponsored by Canon MAXIFY – the printer lineup designed to help small business owners increase productivity so that they can focus on everything else that matters. For more information about the Canon MAXIFY printer lineup visit here
Many marketers and social media experts have made social media about many of the wrong things – it’s not a broadcast channel – it’s a tool for creating personal connections and sharing useful information. It’s not about building large and mostly hollow followings – it’s about finding the right group or the right handful of prospects that want very much to hear what you have to share.
When you view social media use in this light another long-standing assumption falls by the wayside – the fact that you can’t or shouldn’t sell using social media.
When you view social media tools and networks as a way to create and bolster personal relationships you build connections based on trust – when you earn trust, you can sell anything, anywhere.
The key to making social media work for your business is intention. You must make it your intention to do things that people find useful and pour all of your energy and planning into finding ways to do just that.
The word of day with regard to usefulness is context. When you put everything possible into making your updates, tweets, responses and queries as relevant as possible to smallest number of people as possible you’ve got a solid recipe for creating a social media plan that will deliver value to your business.
Below are five core activities that every useful social media system must contain and some of the tools I love to recommend to power your social media connection plan.
1) Collecting – This is the listening part and it’s the part the powers pretty much everything you do. By making it easier to spot real opportunities to connect you can be much more focused on adding value.
- Hootsuite – Create columns for industry, topic or geographic based tweets and respond daily with useful replies
- Twitter Lists – Create Twitter lists of customers, partners and prospects and monitor for retweeting, commenting and sharing opportunities
- Talkwalker – Create alerts for key customers and journalists and respond to daily related emails
- Quora – Subscribe to industry related RSS feeds and tune in to the most asked and answered questions
2) Curating – Finding and sharing the best of the web is a tremendous way to add value by delivering up just the right content.
- Using a tool like Scoop.it or Storify pull together specific topic or industry pages or even create collections of curated content for specifics clients or prospects.
- Use Newsle to keep tabs on trending stories and collections of content from industry influencers.
3) Creating – One of the best ways to get your content shared is to make it visual.
- Word Swag – Use this nice little iPhone app to capture and title quick photos of clients and events
- Canva – This free online graphic design editor makes it easy to create impactful social profile headers as well as great blog post graphics
- Listly – This tool makes it easy to create or even collaborate on lists of things like great books or any other online resources
- Visua.ly – Turn even the most mundane data into visual content. Media outlets love data so think about ways to mine yours!
4) Collaborating – Every social media system needs an emphasis on customer or community engagement. Finding ways to get your customers involved in social interaction is key.
- BuzzSumo – This tool helps you find the most shared content on any topic and is my favorite for discovering guest bloggers and gaining insight into what gets shared
- Quora – Use this question and answer site to find and answer great questions and conversation starters.
- Alltop – Alltop is a great place to find potential guest post opportunities and contributors
- Facebook Groups – Create private Facebook Groups to help your customers network with each other
5) Connecting – Finally, don’t forget to program ways to connect directly with customers in social settings.
- Nimble – This CRM easily adds social data from every contact making it easy to keep tabs on what your contacts are up to
- Rapporative – This browser plug in adds rich social data to every email you receive giving you a snapshot view in a handy place
- Contactually – This tool allows you to group your contacts into various buckets and then set up relationship building touchpoints automatically
The best way to make social media pay is to think very seriously about the value you deliver on a one to one basis.
Canon will be spotlighting several small business owners on its social media channels throughout the next several months, so be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts on this post using the hashtag #MAXIFY in order to qualify. If you are a U.S.-based small business owner (1-9 employees) and have faced a unique business challenge in your first year on the job, let us know! We’d love to hear what line of work your small business falls within and what you feel is the most important takeaway from this post. We’ll also be rewarding select small business owners with a prize pack including the Canon MAXIFY MB5320 printer as well as other essentials to help you run your business more efficiently. So don’t forget to leave a link to your website or social media pages that way we can see how well you’re marketing your business and get in touch!