Small Business: Using social media sites

For a small-business owner with limited time and For a small-business owner with limited time and resources, it's impossible to be on every site. The key is to not spread yourself too thin across a multitude of sites, but to focus on the few that are most relevant to your audience, say experts. Photo Credit: iStock

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Jamie Herzlich Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday. ...

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Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and now Pinterest.

The list seems endless, especially considering there are more than 200 social media sites out there and new ones popping up daily.

For a small-business owner with limited time and resources, it's impossible to be on every site. The key is to not spread yourself too thin across a multitude of sites, but to focus on the few that are most relevant to your audience, say experts.

"You don't have to be everywhere or on everything," says Eric Yaverbaum, a Manhattan-based author and associate publisher of four social media magazines including Tweeting and Business and Facebook & Business. "Be incredible at one social network, not average on a few."

Goal setting: Start by setting goals, Yaverbaum suggests. What do you hope to accomplish on these sites?

Define why you're using social media and don't just be generic, adds Lissa Duty, founder of LissaDuty.com, a Dallas-based online social media coach. For instance, instead of just saying, "I want to get new clients," be specific and set smaller goals and objectives, such as, "I want to brand myself as an expert," she notes. Then focus your efforts on accomplishing that goal.

Find out where your target audience is hanging out online.

"You need to fish where the fish are," says Robert O'Regan, media director at Harrison Leifer DiMarco, a marketing and public relations agency in Rockville Centre. If you're not sure, ask your customers which sites they frequent.

The logical choices to check out first are the bigger sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

"If you want to learn about social media, go to Facebook first," says Yaverbaum. "You can learn a lot about social media just by being on Facebook."

But don't discount some of the smaller niche sites, says O'Regan. For instance, there are niche sites for different professions, including Ozmosis for licensed physicians, he notes.

For Hillary Needle, president of Hillary Needle Events Inc., an event planning and marketing firm in Dix Hills, it made sense to focus her efforts on three sites: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Trying to be everywhere just "dilutes the message" and is "distracting," she says. She gets invitations to join other social networking sites but tries to remain consistently active on those three. She says it's paid off. "I absolutely have been contacted by potential clients," says Needle, particularly on LinkedIn.

Engagement: The key is to keep them engaged and post relevant information.

"Take 15 minutes a week and write out your content strategy for the week," suggests Yaverbaum. This should include some status updates and when you're going to post them, he notes.

Schedule time throughout the week to make posts, perhaps even 15 minutes two or three times a day, he says.

Realistically, you could manage your social media effectively in five hours a week, adds Duty, noting you could use tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck to schedule social media messages to appear simultaneously across multiple sites and monitor your online presence.

Gauge where your efforts are paying off by using analytical tools such as Facebook Insights, says O'Regan. "There's so much good information there."

Just don't get caught up in the next big thing unless it makes sense for your company. Just because Pinterest is hot right now, it doesn't mean it will help your business, say experts, noting it appeals to a largely female audience and is highly visual. "I think I'm going to sit out Pinterest," Yaverbaum says. "I think I've reached the point of saturation."

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