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5 Things Small Business Owners Must Know About Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing has revolutionized the way businesses promote themselves and engage with customers. The idea of marketing with Facebook and other social sites may have seemed like a passing fad not so long ago, but social media marketing has generated billions of dollars in revenue for business owners who recognized its value. It's hard to imagine life without services like Twitter now, and all signs indicate that the trend of doing business via social media is set to continue.

1) Marketing with social media takes time.

A couple of decades ago a business would have needed a huge marketing budget to reach the number of customers you can now connect with at no cost by using social media. There's no direct financial cost for using social media platforms for business, but it does take an investment of time. It's important to have some structure to any online marketing activity, or it can become a worthless distraction. Checking sites of comments and posting updates can be very time consuming. A small business owner should be willing to commit at least an hour a day to this activity, and returns may not be seen for months.

2) A social media marketing strategy should use a combination of sites and services.

Having a Facebook page may be a good start, but the real power of social media marketing comes from engaging across a range of sites. Each platform has its own specific use, and integrating them together gives you a range of ways of promoting your business and brand. Twitter is perfect for commenting on newsworthy items and issuing instant updates. Visual platforms, like Instagram, are great for engaging customers and prospects in more emotional ways. Having a consistent approach across a number of social media sites means you can share content in ways that appeal to audiences in different ways.

3) The first steps are the hardest.

Some marketing gurus like to create the impression that using social media for business requires high levels of expertise. Making a start can be the biggest barrier, and things get easier as you begin posting content and attracting followers. Accept that you may need to learn by a making few mistakes, and don't worry about getting everything right first time. If you're really struggling to decide which sites to use and the type of things you should be commenting on, take a look at what your competitors are doing with social media.

4) Social media should integrate with your other marketing activity.

Remember that using Facebook, Twitter and other sites is just another part of your overall marketing activity. Make sure your brand and style are consistent in both the online and offline worlds. Your presence on social media should have a similar look to your company literature and printed materials. The business sector you operate in will determine appropriate ways to use social media sites, and it could harm your reputation if you do anything too radical.

5) You need a clear goal.

Before you start opening accounts and building fan pages, think about what you want to achieve with new forms of marketing. Having a clear goal from the outset helps to keep you focused on the right type of activity. Do you want to win new customers, or to increase retention of existing ones? Does all of your social media activity have to lead directly to sales? You may have a longer term strategy to establish yourself as an expert in your field with the ultimate goal of winning new business.