VA Guide to Social Media for Small BusinessesSocial media has become a universal part of digital marketing campaigns for businesses all over the globe. In fact, companies of all sizes have jumped on the social media bandwagon to benefit from the numerous opportunities that it affords. And, as bandwagons go, it’s one of the few that levels the playing field for businesses of all sizes and can be taken advantage of without obscenely large budgets.

But if you’re new to social media or have only used it on a personal level, where should you start when it comes to your business? After all, there are numerous social networks out there waiting for you to sign up and even more digital strategists who will devise a bespoke campaign just for you.

The real beauty of social media, however, is that you can create a presence for your business very easily and often for little or no budget. It’s just a case of knowing how to start; where to focus your efforts; and what to watch out for – all of which should be made clearer in this guide.

As a virtual assistant myself, I have come to realise the many benefits that social media affords and always look to promote them to my clients wherever possible. I even manage social media campaigns on behalf of my clients as many simply don’t have the time.

Find the right balance

All too often, businesses think that they need to have a presence on every social network there is and jump feet first into creating new accounts all over the place. The key is to strike the right balance and not focus narrowly on one social network in particular or spread yourself too thinly across them all.

A natural starting point is to get your business setup on the big four social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. This will allow you to explore each of their interfaces and familiarise yourself with the way that each of them works.

Furthermore, it’s critically important to fill your business’s profiles with as much information as possible. Skeleton profiles serve very little purpose and can lead people to believe that your business is no longer trading or simply doesn’t care about its customers.

Be prepared for the long haul

Twitter, for example, has a graveyard of accounts that people made, sent one tweet from and then abandoned because they didn’t get any responses– don’t add to it! You need to be prepared and realise that cracking social media channels takes a lot of hard work and time.

Moreover, if something that you try doesn’t work, you need to adapt and keep persevering. Remember, there’s nothing stopping you checking out your competitors’ social media offerings for inspiration.

Concentrate on your content

Understanding your key demographics is of vital importance and will ultimately form the basis of all your content. This is because your business’s social media presence needs to be offering something beneficial to your customers and potential customers.

Companies who continually ram sales pitches down their followers’ throats will soon lose their audience. The key is to engage people by providing helpful, insightful and useful content that will resonate with your followers and afford genuine benefits or evoke responses.

All of your posts have to have a definitive sense of purpose. Don’t just post stuff on a whim; your audience won’t thank you for it and there’s a chance that it could damage your brand.

Don’t be afraid to automate

Once you have built an established social media presence, there’s no reason why you can’t take advantage of the various automation tools available. These social media management tools are designed to centralise, simplify and improve the efficiency of your social media campaigns.

Hootsuite and SocialOomph are two such tools that make managing your social media easier. They all offer a centralised interface from which to manage and monitor your various accounts. Furthermore, you can obtain great insights into your brand’s effectiveness and reach through the comprehensive analytical features.

However, while these tools provide a host of benefits, the responsibility for creating innovative, unique and engaging content still lies with you. A modest number of engaged followers is much better than a large number of uninterested ones.