social media how toBy now, you have probably heard the success stories of companies like Dell and Starbucks, which have created hugely successful social media presences that serve millions of fans and generate millions of dollars of revenue.  The only problem is, your small business doesn’t have 1/1000th of the brand recognition these companies have.  You run a solid small business that is well known in your niche or your region, but not beyond.

How can social networks become useful marketing and operations tools for smaller businesses that don’t have a large customer base?

This question has kept many small businesses from interacting on social networks, as a recent study showed that only 24 percent of small businesses had begun social media marketing.

Here are five tips to optimize your small business’ social networks to attract more customers online.  Small business owners and marketers do not have the luxury of lots of free time to monitor social networks, so these tips are intended to help you be as efficient as possible.

#1: Make Your Profiles About More Than Just Your Industry

While you should be demonstrating expertise on your Facebook fan page and your blog, you should also be adding local context to this information.  What does the information you are providing mean for your specific region?

If you are selling homes, provide information and links about the local area, as well as the real estate you are offering.  As a small business, you are competing against large national news sources, so provide something the big guys can’t afford to give—local perspective.  The Wydler Brothers Realty Team does just that, offering insights on the Washington, D.C. market as well as homes they are offering in the area.

Wydler Brothers
On their blog, Wydler Brothers Realty offers advice on the general DC area, in addition to their expertise in the real estate industry.

#2: Offer Value

By far the most important tip to getting value from social media for your business is offering value to the customers you want to interact with.  First, make sure your social media presences contain all the information a customer needs to find you on and offline, and provide a clear idea of what your business offers.

Second, define what you’ll be offering your potential customers in return for their attention and time.  You can offer promotions or discounts specifically for fans of your Facebook page, for instance. 

If you do not have the budget for special offers, make sure the content you are offering is valuable to the potential customers you are trying to reach.  Envision the need you are filling for the target customer and serve the customer with useful information related to your business or industry.


Rackspace sees high interaction from polls. Smaller hosting companies could learn from what the market leader is doing, and replicate the types of activities that drive engagement.

#3: Show Consistency

Nothing is more likely to reduce the effectiveness of small business social media outreach than inconsistency and spotty participation.  You can’t expect potential customers to revisit your Facebook profile if it is hasn’t been updated in the two weeks since they first visited, or expect them to make a purchase from your Twitter outreach if you only post 2 updates per month.

Naked Pizza

For example, Naked Pizza, based in New Orleans, messages its followers on Twitter 1 to 15 times per day.  It is now receiving 20 percent of its total revenue from these interactions.

#4: Diversify and Connect

It takes some time investment on the front end, but reaching out on multiple social platforms—then connecting the different presences with the same themes and message—is crucial to reaching the most possible customers on social networks.   You don’t want to replicate the same message on every platform, either.  Though services like are great for simplifying content posting, try to add something unique to each social media presence you maintain.

#5: Be Competitive

Observe your competition and their social media activity.  If your business is the only one in your industry and region interacting on social networks, congrats, you’re ahead of the curve.  But more likely than not, your competitors are experimenting on social networks, too.  Observe what they are doing to grow their base.  Which tactics are working?  Which are not?  This is exactly what you’d do in a competitive assessment offline, looking for ways to improve your process by evaluating your competitors.

Remember to stay persistent, as it takes time to establish robust presences on social media sites.  If you act on these five tips in your social media outreach, you will leverage your time effectively, and see improved results from promoting your small business on social networks.

What techniques have been most successful for you on your business’ social media presences?  Which of these tips do you see the most/least potential in?  Let us know by commenting in the box below!

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  • There is definitely a potential to grow business with any or all of these tips. However, the most solid tip is #1 – Make Your Profiles About More Than Just Your Industry as it talks about the importance of targeting the local market segment.

    Too often, small businesses try to engage the global consumer market rather than their local area. Even if you don’t own a brick and mortar store, many consumers make it a point to shop local. Using geo targeting in social media campaigns helps to stir the word of web and spread the message onto more national and global markets. Start targeting your local economy and let your social media networks spread word of your great products or services to their friends, family and colleagues around the globe.

  • A Great perspective on a very pertinent concern regarding the usability of Social Media forums in small business environments today.

    When consulting with my clients on the effectiveness of Social Media on the promotional benefits for Small Business, I’m often reminded of a principle I learned while taking the Dale Carnegie courses about 30 years ago. This was long before the birth of any aspect of Social Media. In fact there was no Internet and connecting with your customers was basically confined to a “hand shake”. We learned that the most obvious reason that people couldn’t remember the name of the person that they had just met, was that they were too focused on themselves. Basically, rather than listen to who the person was that you had just been introduced to, they were too busy telling that person who they were.

    I think this is often a fundamental that we may have overlooked in the process of talking about our businesses through the corridors of Social Media. I agree with Peter Wylie and his message about the difficulty in trying to not “lunge” but rather “lure” a following of loyalist to our business customer base. This will remain the most challenging task in the continued efforts of implementing Social Media into our daily business lives.

  • flinteinstein

    i have found the article useful and i will be trying to be fit on those areas. thanks for the excellent informative post.

  • Brilliant article and definitely a good guide for us to reflect our progress based on the tips. I love how #1 is stressing on local market. Often times the mind forbids us to go big for ‘we’re so tiny comparing to larger companies in our niche’. Have a clear target and offering our full attention for them works 10 times better & 100 times more efficient. Our limitation is the leverage we have against all odds.

    Social/Blogging Tracker

  • Increasingly we are using Twitter and trying to post quality, actionable tweets wherever possible. I love the way there are so many ways to search for Twitter users so you can really target your marketing very accurately and then in only a short period of time each day build up rapport with your followers. We use Twitter typically more as a rapport-building exercise than as a hard-sell and so far we are pleased with our results.

  • Peter,

    Thanks for sharing the actionable tips. I’m partial to providing as much value as possible. Chris Brogan talks about giving away loads of valuable insight on his blog for years, all for free. He wasn’t in a rush to charge high rates for the time and energy he spent because he saw the big picture. As you give, so shall you receive.

  • Thanks for offering practical, real-world tips, Peter. I am giving a talk to a small town Rotary Club later this month on the topic of social media, and I know it will be a predominantly skeptical group of business leaders. Your article supports all of my key points.

    Question: How would Naked Pizza, or a similar company, measure the sales attributable to Twitter? I know that will be a question I’ll be asked. Wouldn’t it just have to be a “before we usedTwitter” and “after we used Twitter” comparison, or is there some other way?

  • Shannon,
    Couldn’t agree more. The competition is heightened for the general market, but consumers buy locally where small businesses can play more easily. Thanks for commenting.

  • Stan,
    Social media can make even the smallest business appear larger and more responsive. Small businesses should take advantage of the ease at which they can connect with their target customers through social media, and apply the personal touch that differentiates their brick and mortar operations to the online sphere,
    Thanks for commenting,

  • Wchingya,
    Reaching out locally does help small businesses gain a larger share of attention.
    Thanks for commenting,

  • Richard,
    Try some of the location-based Twitter search engines to get even more mileage out of local Twitter outreach, I would suggest Geofollow, TwitterLocal, or TwellowHood,
    Thanks for commenting,

  • Elizabeth,
    Offering a specific promotion solely through Twitter is one way to isolate the sales that come from that channel. Benchmarking sales data prior to the implementation of a social media campaign is helpful too, but you want to be firming up any correlative increase in sales with documented increases in reach and interaction rates of your social media community.
    Hope that helps, and thanks for commenting,

  • Thanks David!

  • That DOES help…thanks so much!

  • dshrikhande

    Great post Peter. Certainly helps reassure skeptics that they do not have to climb the same mountain as large/global businesses!

    Would welcome Peter’s comments on the value of these two points::
    1- Be prompt and personal in your response. It is important to recognize this is not a broadcast medium – but a dialog exercise. So make your responses also personal and individual.
    2- Participate. Depending on the type of business you are engaged in (especially B2C), it would also help to participate in other relevant local social media channels (those hosted by local media for example) as member of the community (and not just a business). You do not want to usurp the host, but be an active member so you are noticed by potential customers that may than engage with you.

  • In my experience it is so important to identify champions for your business or organization in whatever online community you might be participating in and really connect with them. Often times, those people that are already deeply rooted in a community are the ones that will make the biggest impact on your success.

  • Devendra,
    I think that both of your points are spot on, too. Replying a long time after someone has interacted with you gives the wrong impression about your service, and being too formal loses the personal touch people appreciate from small businesses.
    Local social media channels are another great way to increase engagement and learn best practices from other business leaders.
    Thanks for commenting,

  • Champions, advocates, influencers, whichever word you want to use, the concept and importance cannot be underestimated. Brian, you’re right on the money with how crucial it is to identify these individuals and highlight their feedback in your operations and marketing.
    Thanks for commenting,

  • I’ve been getting my visitors for a blog am consulting for purely from Facebook. Learning how to engage more on that end and to actually focus the blog more. It’s been a great experience so far seeing the ups and downs of analytics brought depending on how well you interact with people online.

  • I’ve talked to a number of small businesses that haven’t explored social media due to the simple fact that they don’t understand it. Most admit that they are too busy running their businesses to learn the pros and cons. There needs to be more easily digestible case studies and success stories to whet the attitude of millions of small business that would significantly benefit from a well crafted social media campaign. We need to get content like this in front as many small businesses as possible.

  • craig4bizz

    for small businesses to be successful and get instant recognition from local customers it is better for them to create business profiles and utilize the promotional tools to get visible online

  • Good job! These informations are very usefull. Thanks for the tips. Great post!

  • Dejon,
    The more proof points, especially industry and vertical specific ones, the more likely small businesses are to make a foray into social media marketing. I agree about the relative dearth currently, and we certainly are trying to fill the gap,
    Thanks for commenting,

  • sagarmatha

    Thank you for updating on social media and it is quite useful small business.

  • nice post, content is king in social media marketing. If we can’t share good& unique content with our readers then we can’t get success in social media marketing.

  • Great list Peter!

    One of my major gripes with all of the “Make Social Media Work for Your Business” articles is that they always use examples from HUGE companies. How are smaller businesses supposed to relate to those examples? Social Media Marketing would be a piece of cake if we all had millions of people who were already interested in what we had to say 🙂

    Thanks again for posting some suggestions that we all can relate to.

  • Sounds like you are doing really innovative things with your community. Thanks for commenting,

  • No problem, glad you found them useful.

  • I got on Facebook to share photos, I had no idea how valuable it would be for my business.
    Thank you for your cool articles, I read them all!

  • It takes time to hob nob online, just like it does in the non-electronic world. It’s about making connections with people and there’s nothing that can automate a true conneciton.

  • stephenoffwire

    I think this is the right thing for the small bussines people, me being one of them,because you find that advertising a product in a tv station is so expensive that a beginner can’t afford

  • Maxiosearch

    Thanks Peter for the great advices, I wasn´t up to that the 24% of small business where on social networks. That shows that there is still a lot to learn and digg on this processes. Your advices help hugely!

    I also recommend startups to join the conversations here and place their own questions!

  • jennaz

    Great post! The company I work for, Bulbstorm creates applications for Facebook as well as manages client’s Facebook pages, and we have had a lot of success with all five of the tips mentioned, but the one that has helped us the most is offering value. We make it worth it to be a fan of our pages, by offering contests and prizes through our Idea Challenges application. This engages fans and keeps them coming back for more.

  • claudiaguzman

    These tips are absolutely helpful, very well presented and easy to understand. Thanks for this excellent post.

  • merchantloans

    We recently started a blog featuring our company CEO discussing issues in our industry on video. It’s one way to personalize our marketing efforts. So far it’s resulted in some good feedback.

  • Above article is great.. and i do agree with the post that social media marketing especially facebook plays key role in getting traffic as well as sales to your business.. you can even buy facebook fans from

  • @dwayneflinchum
    Great article! If you’d like, check out my take on “Social Media Marketing Success”:

  • Great wrap up, thanks for sharing.

  • Cool post. Some good tips and info. Thanks heaps!!

  • Great post here, Peter! These tips are all helpful to me as a novice in blogging and affiliate Internet marketing. There times that I feel not good blogger and no confident to market it. But then, as what you stated here that I should be confident enough to my work. Thanks a lot.

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  • Great business tips for social media. I always see that having a more human touch does create great relationship and attract potential customers, than by just being automatic and robotic. It’s always good to interact like humans.

  • Thanks for your useful post, i already bookmarked your blog and will come back for read future post
    keep sharing the tips.

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