The small business guide to
How to choose the right channels
Finding followers and engaging
Spreading the word with social media
The rise of social media has been so rapid that it’s
easy to feel left behind. And it’s not just a personal
scene anymore - many businesses are using sites
such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to attract
followers and fans.
If you run your own business, social media offers
you the chance to spread the word about what you
do. It enables you to build a reputation, forge new
relationships and bring in new business.
But if you haven’t taken the plunge yet, you’re
not alone. According to research by specialist
SME insurer Hiscox (2012), only 57% of small
businesses currently use social media to support
their marketing efforts.
Just listen at first and
then gradually start
responding and striking
And research by The Neilsen Company has found
that 53% of adults who engage in social networks
are active followers of a brand.
“It’s never too late to start. You definitely haven’t
missed the boat,” says Alex Truby, consultant at
social media consultancy Fresh Networks. “There
are exciting opportunities for most businesses on
57% of smallsupport
use social media to
their marketing efforts
It’s often said that social media sites are like
cocktail parties. You wouldn’t just turn up
and start talking at people, says Alex. “You
have to absorb the atmosphere. Just listen at
first and then gradually start responding and
striking up conversations.”
On social media, just like in real life, there’s
some etiquette that you’ll need to learn.
“Each platform has its own nuances,” says
Alex. “But it’s important to be yourself —
don’t try and be something you’re not,
it will backfire in the long run.”
Choosing your channels
“A good starting point is to write your own blog,”
says Alex. “Think about a topic that you know well
that’s related to your business that you can write
regularly about. If you host it on your website and
your blog posts are well read and shared, it will
drive more people to visit your site.” And once you
get started on other sites, you can add links to your
blog and direct traffic back to your own website.
Which social media sites should
According to Hiscox, 19% of small firms use
Facebook, 14% are on LinkedIn, 4% use Twitter
and 15% rely on other social media such as blogs.
Every site has its own merits. Facebook allows
businesses to engage with a fan base of local
consumers. For instance, if you own a café or a
shop, sell products online or run exercise classes
in your area, you could do really well on Facebook.
LinkedIn, meanwhile, is great for business-tobusiness firms and consultants that want to
connect with clients and partners in their sector.
It can help you build contacts and talk to people
with shared interests.
And Twitter, which has rapidly taken off, allows
anyone to post short messages of 140 characters
that will be seen by their network of followers. For
businesses, Twitter is all about showing the people
behind the brands.
It’s not necessary - or even advisable - to be on all
the sites. “If you spread yourself too thin, you won’t
be effective,” says Alex. “The main thing is to find
where your audiences are and be active there.”
Which social media sites do
SMEs use most for business?
Mixing the personal with business
Getting the balance right can be tricky. The point of
social media is that it is friendly and personal, even
for business users. But just how far should you
combine personal with business on social media?
It’s probably not a good idea to have a Facebook
presence that combines your private social life
(complete with photos) with your business.
The best way to reach out
is by sharing content — it
could be a blog post you have
written or something you’ve
read that you think would
appeal to your followers.
However, Twitter is a different story. Some people
follow businesses on Twitter precisely because
they want to get to know the real people behind
the brand. And many entrepreneurs are living and
breathing their own brand 24/7.
It’s a judgment call that only you can make. But
if you opt for a single combined Twitter account,
remember to make sure that every tweet fits with
the reputation of your brand — even if you are only
tweeting about what you did at the weekend.
Finding your followers
All the social media sites offer a variety of ways to
find people you know — or want to get to know.
You can search for names or use your email
contact list to find out who is on which site and
then reach out to them. There are also groups you
can join on sites like LinkedIn that will help you
find your target audience. On Facebook, you can
search for fan pages relevant to your sector.
The beauty of social media is that each contact
often leads to another, so that you can attract more
followers, fans or business connections every day.
Where is your audience?
Reaching out to your customers
If your customers are very active on social media
sites you may find that they use them to contact
you with queries and complaints. In this case, it’s
vital to check in regularly and make sure you deal
with any problems promptly.
The best way to reach out is by sharing content
— it could be a blog post you have written or
something you’ve read that you think would appeal
to your followers. If you are on Twitter, it’s worth
retweeting posts that you think your audience
And finally, think about your tone of voice — a site
like LinkedIn is more serious than Facebook, for
example. And while none of the social media sites
require over-formality, it pays to be polite — always
thanks people for kind words, mentions, feedback
Why do small businesses use social media?
27% to increase
11% to improve their
Your social media questions answered
• You can build relationships with customers,
potential customers, people your customers
know, journalists, movers and shakers in your
sector, partners and suppliers.
• Little and often is the key.
• If you’ve established a good rapport with a key
contact, you can suggest direct contact by
phone, email or face-to-face.
• Don’t sell — be helpful, it’s much more effective.
• It helps you demonstrate your expertise in a nonsalesy way.
• Say thanks when people respond.
• It’s interactive without being intrusive.
• It’s good for growing your audience, and helping
your firm to improve its search results.
• Share content, pass on tips and respond to
• Deal with any negative comments promptly.
• Ask questions.
• Do post regularly but don’t let it take up more
time than you can afford.
• Don’t just broadcast messages — listen,
• Make sure your profile is fresh and relevant, use
good quality images and include links back to
81% of small
businesses see the
value of using
social media as
a business tool.
to find out
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