Slowly but surely, Australian businesses are beginning to take social media seriously. But is it a genuine communication channel with customers or just another box to tick?
Research out last week suggests that many businesses see it as the latter. A survey of 100 top-tier retail and service firms found that just 25% of those with a Twitter profile responded to a query.
So how can start-ups avoid the same mistake and engage with customers to boost market presence and sales?
Here are five essential tips to getting the most out of social media:
1. Do your homework
Around two-thirds of Australian small businesses don’t have their own website. But those that do have an online presence often throw themselves into the digital world with gusto.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Google+ – the platform doesn’t matter, the newly online entrepreneur wants to be on it. Make sure you pause before doing this.
“Don’t go and create a profile on each social media site just for the sake of it,” warns James Griffin, partner at SR7. “Before you launch, you really need to find out where your target customers spend their time online.”
“Have a search around different platforms for keywords that relate to your business. Find out if there’s a blog that your customers like to read. Concentrate your efforts on where your customers are.”
“Also, make sure you set out what social media success is for you. Success may not be fans and followers – it could be getting three extra leads or customer calls a month. Set your goals early on so that you can measure them.”
2. Put in the time
If you are committing your business to driving awareness and sales via social media, you will need to put in the time.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean two hurried minutes at the end of the day. It means diverting precious time throughout the day to build a channel that will benefit your business in the long run.
“There is a misconception among some people we speak to that you can just spend a few minutes a day on social media – you need to spend 45 minutes to an hour, three times a week, to start with,” says Griffin.
“This can be a burden if you are running your own business, but the benefit outweighs this. Put in the time, effort and money, if needed.”
“A basic thing is to get a graphic designer to do your Twitter background, to include your opening hours, logo and contact details. Lots of people overlook that, but $100 on getting that design right will go a long way.”