Make the most of social media for your small business

Mike Halsey, Microsoft Windows expert, author, trainer and Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) has some unique advice about using social media: forget about relying on email to answer your customers’ questions.

Communicate with social media instead

“Say a customer emails you for advice,” Halsey says. “Maybe it’s information about a product that you sell, a service you provide, or a support issue. If you email your customer back, that is a two-person conversation. The only person who benefits from your knowledge is your customer. But if you Tweet your answer or post it on Facebook, it’s an opportunity for others to benefit from your expertise.”

But what if it feels uncomfortable?

At first, it may be unnerving to do the bulk of your communication publically, but Halsey sees many benefits to using popular social media sites. “They work great, especially for solo entrepreneurs, since it enables them to stay current with clients or customers while spreading the word about their products or services.” Just think of it as your own public online listserv, product/service user group, or forum.

How does it work?

“Let’s say you’re a gardener and somebody emails you a question about when to plant azaleas. In your email reply, send your Facebook address and Twitter handle and let them know they can also find the answer there. Then post your answer in the form of a hint to your social networks; something along the lines of, ‘The best time to plant azaleas is early next month. #springplanting,’” Halsey says. Using a hash tag (#) in front of a phrase (with no spaces) makes that term searchable on Twitter. Think of it as free advertising. Tagging keywords that are relevant to a company's target audience increases the likelihood that the people they intend to reach will see the Tweet.

Experience has shown Halsey that if one person has a question, it’s likely that other people are wondering about it too. “These helpful hints spark conversations that keep your name in the minds of everyone who reads the post. Then, when a follower decides to use the type of product or service you provide, you and your company will be fresh in their mind,” Halsey says. Plus you will have fewer emails to send out or answer.

The downside?

Social media does take time. But, in some ways, it saves time, too. “You don’t have to design and print a brochure or poster, or even buy an ad. How long does it take to do a Facebook post that says, ‘Hey, we’ve got these fantastic new shoes coming in next week. Check them out.’ Not that long.” Halsey does his posting in the evening in the time it would take to play a couple of games of Candy Crush.

Too busy to post to multiple social media sites? Halsey recommends posting services such as Hootsuite, Buffer, or Queuedit, which is oriented to business teams. “These services enable you to post simultaneously to several social media sites, are easy to use, and save you time.”

Halsey doesn’t mean to suggest that email is no longer a valid communication tool. “It’s still great for sending out mass marketing messages. But for more meaningful conversations that promote your good advice and problem-solving skills as part of your brand, social media reigns supreme.”


Article ID: 2928480 - Last Review: 28 Mar 2014 - Revision: 1