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Getting Social Media to Work

Small Biz and Non-profits Can Join Market Conversation Too

New Media Journal on Ulitzer

Social media isn’t just for the Fortune 500 world, but it isn’t a just a simple, free, easy 1-2-3 proposition, either. In fact, as major corporations build out their social media strategies to expand their place in the market conversation, increase market share, differentiate from competitors and expand their offerings and refine their customer support, they’re spending large budgets and directing many human resources to the efforts. But don’t despair, if you’re a small business or a non-profit organization, you can still reap the benefits of social media and stay within their budget.

5 Suggestions to Help You Be Successful with Social Media (with little money and/or few resources)

  1. You don’t need to boil the ocean–it’s not necessary to have an account or fan page or profile on every single social network. Figure out where your customers and potential customers are. Often the best place for you to engage in the online conversation is in smaller niche networks/communities. This site might help you research. http://sites.google.com/site/socialmedialistproject/networks
  2. You don’t need to spend a lot, but you’ll want to spend some money to create a plan on how to participate. Social networks and online communities are usually free to sign up, but you don’t want to waste a lot of time figuring out which network or community to get involved with if you aren’t familiar with them and once you’re set up, you need a plan for what to say, when to say it, who to listen to, how to respond to questions and mentions, etc. so that it actually benefits your business. I recommend hiring a consultant to help you do this.
  3. You don’t need to spend a fortune on social media applications or tools. There are many free social media management, engagement and research tools available. Check out my Delicious bookmarks for Free SM Monitoring tools, SM research tools, and see the Social Media Project wiki for other 3rd party tools and social media locations.
  4. Be sure to keep the 5 keys to conversation participation in mind:
    • Listen to current customers, prospects, industry experts and other influencers in the market space and internalize what you hear to improve your business.
    • Speak to the overall market conversation with quality, supportive and helpful content that people want to respond to, inquire about and pass on to others.
    • Care about what is being said about your products, your company, your competitors and your industry, but even more important, care about helping your customers and prospects fulfill their wants and needs.
    • Share your experiences—positive and negative—and your insights as you grow your company and evolve your product lines.
    • Build relationships with market conversation Influencers, Participants and Listeners based on the mutual interest of the consumer problems that need to be solved with product innovation.
  5. Spread the work out among more than one person. As a small company or non-profit, you don’t need a full-time person to make social media efforts work. Many of the social media management tools, even free ones, will allow you to create logins for multiple people and assign tasks to different people. Encourage your staff to help spread your word. Talk about guidelines for speaking out so that you’re all on the same page. I’ve set up CoTweet for a couple of small companies and non-profits. It works great for them to manage their Twitter stream.

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More Stories By Christine Fife

As I drove off to college I never would have guessed I would end up here! But it’s been a fantastic journey. My career has been richly diverse giving me an advantage over marketers who are siloed into niche positions. I strive to be a true Renaissance person—I love to learn about everything and trying new things comes naturally. My career has been no different; I’ve successfully launched enterprise software and medical device development startups, improved communications processes for the regulatory department of a major financial exchange, increased client business and product development for several international exchange program companies and founded an international educational non-profit organization. My master’s degree in Integrated Marketing from Golden Gate University gave me a broad understanding of traditional marketing best-practices, but my BA in theater gave me the skills to understand how people communicate with one another and the importance of promoting a brand in a voice that is right for the audience.

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