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Why Most Small Businesses Are Failing with Social Media & 5 Tips For Better Success

The secret to social media for small business owners is being human – being likeable.

Over 800 million people in the world are on Facebook, including over 180 million Americans, or 1 in 2 adults. Twitter just topped 300 million accounts. Small business owners in droves are trying to capitalize on the trends, but few are reaping the benefits. For most local business owners, the temptation is to use social networks to promote their businesses and to broadcast their messages.

But if you take off your marketing cap, and put on your customer cap, you’ll realize that consumers are already pummeled by marketing and advertising messages all day long. The secret, then, to social media for small business owners – is being human – being the sort of person at a cocktail party who listens attentively, tells great stories, shows interest in others, and is authentic and honest.  The secret is to simply be likeable.

Here are 5 specific tips for small business owners to enjoy more success at social media:

1. Listen before you talk. Before your first tweet, search Twitter for people talking about your business, and for people talking about your competitors. Search using words that your prospective customers would say, too. For example, if you’re an accountant, use Twitter to search for people tweeting the words “need an accountant” in your town. You’ll be surprised how many people are already looking for you.

2. Don’t tell your customers to like you and follow you, tell them why and how. Everywhere you turn, you see “Like us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter.” Huh? Why? How? Give your customers a reason to connect with you on social networks (what’s in it for them?) and then make it easy. Note the difference between these two calls to action: “Like my book’s page on Facebook” and “Get answers to all your social media questions at http://Facebook.com/LikeableBook.

3. Ask questions. Wondering why nobody’s responding to your posts on Facebook? It’s probably because you’re not asking questions. Social media is about engagement and having a conversation, not about promoting. If a pizza place posts on Facebook, “Come on by, 2 pizzas for just $12,” nobody will comment, and nobody will show up. If that pizza place posts, “What’s your favorite topping?” people will comment online– and then be more likely to show up.

4. Share pictures and videos. People love photos. The biggest reason Facebook has gone from 0 to 800 million users in 7 years is photos. Photos and videos tell stories about you in ways that text alone cannot. You don’t need a production budget, either. Use your smartphone to take pictures and short videos of customers, staff, and cool things at your business, and then upload them directly to Facebook and Twitter. A picture really is worth a thousand words.

5. Spend at least 30 minutes a day on social media. If you bought a newspaper ad or radio ad, you wouldn’t spend 5 minutes on it or relegate it to interns. Plus, there’s a lot to learn, and every week, new tools and opportunities across social networks emerge. Spend real time each day reading and learning, listening and responding, and truly joining the conversation. The more time you put in to social media, the more benefits your business will receive.

Above all else, keep that customer cap on, and follow the golden rule:  Would you yourself click the “Like” button, the Follow button, or Retweet button if you saw your business on Facebook & Twitter? Would YOU want to be friends with your business at a cocktail party? How likeable is your business?

Dave Kerpen is the CEO of Likeable Media and the author of the NY Times bestseller Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and be Generally Amazing on Facebook (and Other Social Networks.) You can ask him any social media questions at http://Twitter.com/DaveKerpen or http://Facebook.com/DaveKerpen

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jenny May 06, 2012 at 01:56 AM
probably very useful advise.
Shannon Campbell May 30, 2013 at 01:19 PM
..And don't over-post! Too many businesses are sending out updates 3 and 4 times a day every day. Yipes! Quick way to get "unliked" by me :-) Post what's relevant!

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