How Small Businesses Can Leverage Social Media

Social media is a waste of time. Social media is too complicated to figure out. Social media might be good for some businesses, but not for mine. These thoughts circle in the minds of small business owners, but what they don’t realize is that social media for a small business can involve a minimal amount of time investment and it can provide unique opportunities for customer interaction and trust-building which other marketing platforms can’t.

FlexJobs, a job search website specializing in telecommute and other flexible job opportunities, has been using social media for years, starting slowly and gaining momentum. As a small but growing business with 24 employees, FlexJobs started small and grew its social media involvement as it grew its overall business. At first, FlexJobs used Facebook and LinkedIn sparingly, then grew to Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Over the course of its social media adventures, FlexJobs has amassed over 10,400 Facebook fans, 2,100 Twitter followers, 1,400LinkedIn Group members, hundreds of Pinterest followers, and 2,300 views on YouTube.

Rather than look for how much money you can make using social media, FlexJobs believes these platforms have other benefits which support its overall goals and mission. Here are some of the ways FlexJobs’ has used social media to complement its marketing and outreach efforts.

Start small. Think about your business, your products or services, and how much time you can commit to social media. Choose one or two platforms that best match your business, and go from there. Facebook and Twitter are obvious choices, but if Pinterest or YouTube make more sense, try them out first. Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once.

Show your customers you’re accessible. Customer service is a big deal, and if your customers can reach you through their chosen communication method, they’ll be happy campers. FlexJobs customers often ask questions on its Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and FlexJobs answers them publicly so other customers (and potential customers) can see how easy it is to contact the company. It also helps to answer questions that others might have but haven’t asked.

Be creative. Pinterest is the latest social media craze and, at first, FlexJobs was hesitant to jump in because its services aren’t very visual, and Pinterest is all about pictures and video. However, after creating an account and clicking around for a bit, FlexJobs realized Pinterest was a great place to share content from its website (through pictures), network with partner businesses, and showcase its media mentions. By pinning its own pictures and repinning others, FlexJobs has become a Pinterest wiz, and it was named the #3 best employer brand on Pinterest by SmartRecruiting.

Partner up with related organizations. Social media isn’t all about reaching customers. Forming casual and helpful relationships with partner businesses, professional associations, and other organizations is another way to leverage your online presence. LinkedIn allows for group discussions where people can share ideas, get feedback, and discuss topics related to their field. Facebook and Twitter make it easy for you and your partner businesses to share each other’s information with customers for cross-promotions. Be sure to get social with customers AND business partners on social media.

Manage your time. FlexJobs does have a social media manager, but social media is only about 20 percent of what she does. You don’t necessarily need someone who has studied social media management - if you have someone on staff who is interested in social media, let them test things out for you as part of their overall responsibilities. Track how much time they’re spending on each site and don’t let it get out of hand.

Small businesses can absolutely leverage social media to help them connect with current and potential customers, showcase their expertise and leadership in their field, and connect with other businesses and organizations for partnerships. Just start small, be creative, and manage the time you put into it, and you’ll go from skeptical to savvy in no time.