Polly Williams, Senior Digital Strategist, PHDiQ, part of the Spark PR Group talks to Gill South about using social media in your small business.

Common mistakes companies are making with their social media:

To me social media is a shift in power to consumer is king. A single disgruntled consumer has the power to cause serious damage to a business of brand -here's an example.

It's also levelled the playing field making it possible for small businesses and brands to take on even the biggest global brands.


Integration and responsiveness

The key things companies using social media need to focus on, are integration and responsiveness. Once you get involved in social media you are effectively making your business 24/7/365. Your customers will interact with you on their terms, when it suits them and businesses need to be ready to cater for this.

Checking your page/account every other day isn't good enough. You need to be able to respond within 12 hours - particularly to anything negative - or run the risk of something minor escalating into an issue that could directly impact your bottom line or undermine your brand.

Don't treat social media as a broadcast channel

This is a very common mistake a lot of businesses make. You need to do more listening and responding rather than you do talking. And take the time to get involved. Like people who like you. Follow people who follow you. Share their content and they'll share yours.

Quality not quantity

Having 100,000 Facebook fans is great, but what's more important is how many of them are actively engaging with the page by liking or commenting on your posts, watching your videos, answering your polls or, most importantly, sharing your content within their own networks? Having 1 per cent of your 100,000 fans engaged with your business is no different from having 30 per cent of 3,000 fans who are engaged.

Launching a Facebook page will not solve anything. In fact it will probably create more issues than it resolves!

For a lot of small businesses finding the time and resource to manage a Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Blogger community is challenging and if you are unable to link this activity back to direct sales (which is the norm) then it can become extremely hard to justify. Social media is not a quick fix - it's a long term strategy for marketing your business and delivering customer service and so it needs to be part of your business strategy.

Entertain with your online presence but have a message

FMCG brands that haven't generally had a lot to say in the past are finding a voice which is enabling them to connect with their consumers in an unprecedented way. The Skittles Facebook page is a great example of this. They've found a voice which entertains with humour - but all of their humour is tied back to the brand. Their consumers love it. Has it increased sales - who knows?

Any company that has an engaged audience is doing it right. However it is really easy to fall into the trap of building engagement without actually talking about your products or services. While not every status update or piece of content needs to be a hard sell, you do need to have a strategy for what you are trying to achieve and how you will achieve it. Set goals and objectives and work out what success will look like - and be focused.

The consumer is in control - turn this to your advantage

Ask your community to help design packaging, new flavours, which events to be involved with, which charity to donate money to and even consumer petitions to bring back heritage products/flavours are all quite common ways businesses give power to their customers via social media. This is an area that is much easier for small businesses to get involved in as they have a lot more flexibility than larger organisations.

Do your homework

Understanding how social media works is critical. Before you set up profiles for your business, set up profiles for yourself. Get in there and understand how the platform works, what the etiquette and rules are, what best practice is, what your competitors are doing. You wouldn't enter a new market without doing your homework - treat launching your brand into social media in the same way.

Follow us @SparkPHDiQ or read our blog.

Next week, we will be looking at some New Zealand entrepreneurs and how they get the word out about their inventions. What are your channels? YouTube? Through company websites, blogs?
Tell us your stories. Email me, Gill South at the link below: