These days, social media is utilized for a variety of business purposes. Not only is it used to prospect for new customers, but it is also a valuable tool for communicating with current ones, and building your brand to boot. Therefore being out of the loop when it comes to social media platforms is a recipe for disaster; the conversations are going to happen whether you are there or not, so you need to become a social media advocate.

If your small business is struggling to harness the power of social media, here are a few tips to help you better utilize these platforms:

1. Have A Plan: Social media isn’t something you can just jump into, it should be thought of as a strategic marketing tool that requires forethought and proper planning.

First, figure out what social media platform most of your customers are on and follow them there. If you personally like Twitter, but they are mostly on Facebook, then you need to move to Facebook. Beyond that,

  • Plan out your content for the month, taking into account the various specials, deals, holiday sales, etc. that your company will run. Use a tool like Hootsuite
  • Put together a list of “spontaneous” content ideas to post when you have some time to interact with your follower base. Even though you will more than likely wind up going a bit off script at times, the existence of a plan will mean that you always have something to fall back on.

One book I like a lot that can help you plan your social media efforts is 30 Minute Social Media Marketing by Susan Gunelius.

2. Focus on Others: This is another place where the good ‘ol 80-20 Rule applies. Make 80% of your posts about others, and only 20% about you or your business. Nobody wants to be friends with the person who is always talking about themselves, especially if that person is really a business.

With social media, you have to give to get.

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3. Be Helpful: When you run a business, there is a fairly clear expectation that you know what you are talking about, and nothing gets that point across better than offering up valuable advice as needed. The same has to become true with your social media posts. Dishing out informed, helpful advice will help set you up as a go-to expert in your field, paving the way for people to organically find their way to your business.

4. Post Shareable Content: I once interviewed a guy who mastered the art of sharing. His website gets about 15 million visitors a month, and he does zero advertising. It’s all from social media sharing. What’s his secret?

He said, “Steve, people will share something when it moves them emotionally. Either they find it funny, or quirky, or cute, or touching – that sort of thing. Positive emotions work better than negative ones for sharing, although anger gets people to share things too.”

So for us in the small business world, that means you need to offer up the type of content that encourages sharing, because by doing so, you are automatically expanding your reach without adding work time to your already busy schedule.

5. Interact with Your Followers: This is the key. People like to feel like they are being heard, so make sure that you are listening to what your followers are saying and then responding when appropriate. Retweeting positive messages, responding to customer complaints, answering inquiries and offering advice are all great ways to show your followers that you’re not just a robot mindlessly posting content. Humanizing yourself helps others connect with your company on a more personal level.

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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