Social Media – The Entrepreneur’s Secret WeaponWind the clock back 10 years, and social media platforms such as Facebook were the domain of college students and young people; a medium to take the university experience online, as Mark Zuckerberg originally envisaged.

Fast forward to now, and nearly two billion people are active at least once a month on Facebook.

That’s nearly a third of the world’s population on a single social media network.

Aside from some initial knowledge through your own personal accounts, running an effective social media campaign does require some expertise.

Here are tips for the young entrepreneur with a small- to medium-sized business, who should be looking to get the most from their social media activity.

Social Media Allows You to Know Your Audience Inside Out

The more you understand the people you’re looking to target, the better your chances of success.

Try to think about your customer base, and what they do when they’re online.

Using analytics tools, you can begin to gather some kind of data and use this to inform your subsequent strategy.

  • Does your target audience spend lots of time on YouTube?
  • Do they respond well to long-form blogs?
  • Will they only click through to your site if you’re running some kind of a contest?

These are the kinds of questions you should ask as you begin your social media program.

People are sometimes more inclined to share their thoughts about a business or service online because they don’t have the pressure of speaking directly to another person.

The kind of responses and engagement you get from people is likely to be more honest, and will give you a clear idea of what they think of your brand.

You should always take the time to reply to any messages left by users.

Responding to both good and bad feedback is worthwhile, as even if you don’t win over someone who is dissatisfied with your business, others will see you’re taking the time to engage with everyone.

Audience Engagement Can Grow Your Base

One of the hardest aspects part about starting a small business is establishing your brand.

You want to become recognizable for the services or products you offer, but no one has heard of you.

If you have a Twitter account for your business, there’s not much use in having the world’s best social strategy when there are only four people following you.

A little creativity goes a long way here, as competition can be a great, cost-effective way to grow your online base.

Twitter competitions that use a “retweet and follow for a chance to win our free product” structure can get a big response, but it’s important to remember to adhere to the rules when trying this out.

Learn from the Successes and Mistakes of Others

Many different approaches to social media are tried and tested.

It’s important to bear in mind that social media rarely sits still for too long.

What might be true for today may not necessarily be true in six months’ time, but there are a couple of eternal rules out there.

It’s certainly worthwhile to try looking at some of the online social media guides to keep yourself right.

Being adventurous with your strategy is a good thing, but it’s important to remember it can backfire if you don’t understand your audience.

Taking the time to go over instances where other businesses get it right or wrong can keep you from putting your own foot in it.

Beyond this, it’s certainly worth your time to see which platforms people engage with the most by looking at your competitors.

Do restaurants get the best engagement on Instagram?

Are customers engaging with tech start-ups on Twitter?

Do design businesses get good metrics on Pinterest?

Keeping an eye on how the competition use their chosen platforms can help give you a steer on where the opportunities lie.

Social Media Allows You to Take Advantage of Your Size

When it comes to implementing and maintaining your strategy, don’t compare yourself to the bigger consumer brands that have large budgets and teams of people working on social media.

That makes it too daunting to consider how you could possibly compete.

Here you can use your relative size to your advantage.

If you’re the only person running your business, anyone who interacts with your social media can get the answers for their questions straight from the horse’s mouth.

This also allows you to be more reactive with what you put on your company’s social media.

There won’t be any sign off processes to run by managers, and you’ll be in charge of the tone of voice that goes with how you form your messaging.

Large companies outsourcing their activities overseas is something that can be a little contentious with customers, so when people know they can get right in contact with the CEO through the company Facebook, they might be more inclined to choose your products or services.

The world of social media is dynamic and ever-changing.

Having a strategy that allows you to compete with the dominant players can allow you to carve out a niche in an otherwise crowded landscape.

How do you engage with your audiences on social media?

Do you use your size to your advantage?

Let us know in the comments!

Chris Smith

Chris Smith is a writer and blogger based in Glasgow, Scotland. I like to write mainly about sport and finance on my own blog, but have also contributed to the Guardian, Salon, the Huffington Post and the Telegraph on a number of topics over the course of my career.

View all posts by Chris Smith