Online blogs and social media such as Facebook and Twitter are incredibly powerful marketing tools that no new business can afford to ignore. If you're not yet up to speed with these awesome communication platforms, and their unlimited scope for finding and winning customers, then it's time to jump on the bandwagon.
Benefits of social media and bloggingBlogs and other social media platforms have big benefits that small, medium or large businesses can utilise:
They’re FREE and fast!
Great for getting your name and products/ services out into the marketplace and creating “buzz” about your business.
Help you find and talk to your target markets, wherever they are in South Africa or anywhere in the world.
Create a vibrant interactive community for your small business by making connections and building relationships with customers, suppliers, vendors, and anyone else interested in what you’re up to.
Receive invaluable feedback and support from your business’s community.
Easy and lots of fun to use!
What is a blog?
A blog is a type of website or part of a website. Think of it as being a bit like your diary or business journal. But everyone can see it. You can put a wide variety of content on your blog – from articles, images or videos, to links or contact information. The difference between a blog and a conventional website is that a blog is interactive: visitors to your blog can leave comments and even message each other.
On your small business blog you might:
Talk about your business, industry, products or services.
Comment about your industry, business practices, or the state of the world today.
Post pictures, videos and graphics.
Give details about an upcoming event.
Provide links to other blogs and websites, including your business website.
In 2013 there were more than 200 million public blogs on the Internet – it's time you joined them!
How to start a blog
Anyone can start a blog. And every day around 20 000 people do! Here’s how to launch yours:
Sign up with a blogging provider that suits you. Some of the most popular are LiveJournal, Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr. Check them out and sign up online in just minutes.
Once you’ve signed up, choose a template and then personalise it with your choice of colour, layout, profile and business information.
Add blogging freebies like buttons, images, guest books, and comment boxes.
Most blogs can password-protect your content so only those you approve of can see what you’ve written.
After you’ve set up your blog, write a few entries to try it out.
Visit other blogs to build up a blogging circle. When you leave comments, add your blog’s address so people can visit you too.
Publish your blog by sending its URL (web address) to your friends or publish the URL on your business website. Add the URL to posts you make on other blogs and Facebook.
What's the story with Facebook?
Facebook is a social networking website designed to connect with your friends, family and business associates. Although it began as a way for friends to find each other and communicate, Facebook is proving to be a highly effective business marketing tool.
It's easy to set up your business' Facebook account. Once you've done so, you can:
Create a profile for your business
Post information about your products and services
Post your contact details and business address
Add links to websites and news stories
Post photos and videos
Find and invite people and organisations to become your Facebook “friends”
Receive comments and newsfeeds from your friends
Communicate with friends and other users through private or public messages and a chat feature
Create and join interest groups and “like” pages
Privacy settings can be applied to your Facebook account so that only your business' Facebook friends can see some or all of your information. Or you can have no privacy settings if you want everyone to see your information and there's nothing you want to hide.
Twitter is another free social networking and micro-blogging website that enables you to send and read messages called tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters.
The benefits of Twitter for small business:
Join in industry conversations via tweets
Get the latest insights and news as it happens
Keep your brand in the loop
Follow your competitors via Twitter and find out what they’re up to
Follow the tweets of people in your target market and find out what they want and need
Promote your blog, website, events, products and services at any time
How to use YouTube for business
YouTube is an often-overlooked platform for building low-cost, high impact content. All you need, to “broadcast yourself” or your business on YouTube, is a camera and editing software. It pays to take the time to learn the basics of video production as you'll want your business video to be engaging and look professional.
Some ideas for your YouTube video:
A mini commercial or short film about your business
A series of short interviews with your customers
Note: Always include your business name, contact details and domain name so viewers can find you.
Some tips for social marketing success
First and foremost, keep in mind that every piece of content you post online – whether it's on your blog, your Facebook page, on YouTube or other sites – could boost your business and drive search results and traffic at very little or no cost. Here are some tips:
Become an expert: People crave good information and great content, and it can be as niche market as the products or services you're selling. By blogging, tweeting, sharing, and updating about things relevant to your industry, you can build credibility in your field.
Create good content: Whether about your products or something relevant to your industry, content creation is something you should engage in regularly. Write articles and film short videos, then post them to YouTube, your website, Facebook, Twitter and your blog.
Real time updates: Post pictures and tweet out commentary from industry events to keep your fans in the loop.
Look after your fans: Thank and reward those who love what you're doing and post positive remarks and reviews. Great reviews from your “business brand ambassadors” are priceless!