If you’re like a lot of small business owners, you find social media confusing. How often should you update your status, what would you tweet about, and what in the world is Pinterest? More importantly, will anyone even care what you post, tweet, or pin? These five easy tips will help to demystify social media and give you a plan for making it work for your business.

  1. The most important thing to realize is that social media isn’t about you. At all. For many companies, this is the hardest thing to grasp. Think of social media like your favorite local coffee shop. It’s a place where people meet to socialize, share ideas, and network. They’re there to engage, not sit at a table in the corner by themselves. The same is true with social media, and this gives you a unique opportunity to engage with your target audience.
  2. Start small. You don’t need to be on every social media platform there is right away. In fact, you may find that there are a few that work well for your business. Focus on those. Work to build your presence on one platform and expand to others if and when the time is right. So many businesses jump into social and soon realize that they don’t have the time or resources to keep each of their accounts updated. Customers who land on a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated in a month will automatically think that lack of response indicates a slow turnaround time or that customer service isn’t important to that company.
  3. Share don’t sell. It’s easy to think of social media as a digital platform for promoting your widgets, but the more you try to sell, the less people will listen. Your Facebook page is a place for you to share information that would be important to your audience. Let’s say your company sells tires. Having a Facebook page (or Twitter feed, etc.) devoted to posts about sales on tires probably wouldn’t have many fans. However, if you shared information about the relationship between tire tread and gas mileage, tips for driving in bad weather, and fun places to visit that are within driving distance from your business, your page would be interesting and would give people a reason to interact with you on a regular basis. They may not always need to buy tires, but the other information you share is relevant to their everyday lives.
  4. Engage. Nobody wants to go to coffee with the person who dominates every conversation by always talking about himself. Sharing interesting information that sparks conversation will help your audience to connect with you. Don’t be afraid to ask your followers to engage. Host a contest that requires people to like, post, pin, or share to be entered, or encourage your fans to share pictures and ideas. By turning your Facebook page into a forum for people interested in the products and services you provide, you’re giving them a voice and positioning yourself as an expert on the topic.
  5. Let people know you’ve gone social. Include links to your social media pages on your website and in your email signature. Launch a campaign to let people know about your new Facebook page and offer a prize to people who “Like” your page during the course of the campaign. You can also mention it in a blog post. For example, you can follow Gravity Group on Facebook (www.facebook.com/gravitygroupmarketing), on Twitter (@gravitygroup), or check out our work on Vimeo (vimeo.com/gravitygroup). See how easy that was?

If you take the time to pick the right social media platform and make sure that you’re sharing information that’s relevant and important to your audience, you’ll end up with a social presence with which they’ll want to engage. And always remember, social media is about them, not you.