The Essentials of Social Media for Small Business

05/12/2015 01:37 pm ET | Updated May 10, 2016

This article is the forth in a series of five posts on the basics of online marketing for small business. The series is designed to inform and empower small businesses about their online marketing options and give them the confidence to explore the potential growth opportunities that are available through online marketing.

In this article we will focus on social media, a relatively new online marketing channel and one that has been tried by many and mastered by few. With 72% of all internet users now active on social media, there is a great potential for reach and engagement with highly targeted audiences.

What is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing involves actively using social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn to encourage communities to visit your website and build consumer awareness of your brand.

Whereas marketing channels such as email and television ads are seen as a one-way communication, where you are simply pushing advertising to a consumer, social media is a two-way dialogue where you actively communicate with your audience and they reply (and vice-versa).

As social media has grown, it is now commonly used as a customer relationship management tool, whereby you can gain an understanding of your customers' issues and feedback in regards to your business. Additionally, having an active social media presence helps maintain a relationship with your current customers and can assist in building relationships or gaining exposure with potential customers.

Why you should do it?

Social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, are online communities of consumers interacting with their each other. Research shows that consumers are heavily influenced through social media, by what their friends are interacting with (a term coined "social proof"). Engaging with your current customers and maintaining a strong social relationship with them will draw their friends to your business, increasing the potential for you to gain new customers. According to Shareaholic, "referrals from the top 5 social media platforms have more than doubled" over the past year. This highlights the large potential for increasing your business visibility within the social space.

What to expect:

Once you have built a social media presence and audience, by consisting offering valuable content on your website you can expect an increase in traffic. You can also expect to learn about improvements that you can make to your business' service or products as customers start to provide you with feedback. The 'social signals' gained from links to your website from posts on social media outlets can also give your SEO rankings a boost on search engines.

Bonus Tip:

Similarly with content marketing, make sure your social media channels are engaging and above all are providing value to your audience. Social media is a chance to give your business a personality and boost its reputation in a highly targeted audience. Make sure you are constantly updating and interacting with your network. Be sure to reply to any comments or enquiries promptly.

Social media is a fantastic channel to use when establishing your presence online. Like other online marketing channels, a little planning up front will go a long way in ensuring a successful outcome. Consider things such as; who you want to target, how you will interact with them, how often you will post and who will be responsible for managing your reputation online. By considering the purpose of your social media channels and what will be of value to your customers, you'll see great engagement and a steady increase in traffic to your website.

For more information and tips on online marketing check out the Magicdust website, we are a web design and SEO company specializing in small business.