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With all the talk about Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, as a small business owner, you might feel like you should jump on the bandwagon, creating accounts for each social property. Before you get started, let’s take a look at a few things first.

Social media can allow your small business to broaden its audience, open a dialogue with existing customers, and help spread word-of-mouth about your products and services. However, without enacting a well-thought-out social media policy, your company’s social efforts could do just the opposite. While it may seem obvious to you how your company’s social properties should (and shouldn’t) be used, it may not be as clear to your employees. Here are a few guidelines and tips to help you start a social media guide for your small business.

Be responsible for what you write.

Anyone who has the ability to post on your company’s social properties should know how to respond to customers appropriately. To clear up any confusion, consider writing a short manual with guidelines for acceptable language on social media sites. Be sure that employees posting to your social sites know who to ask if there’s a question about how to respond to a comment or inquiry. And don’t neglect to consider your employees’ personal social media accounts – if their accounts show an affiliation with your business, then their posts and photos can impact your brand. Make it clear to employees that they need to be conscious and responsible for what they say about your business online, and what kinds of content they post.

Consider your audience.

Know who your target market is, and reach out to these potential customers using the appropriate social media channels. Trying to get in front of other business owners? Consider using LinkedIn and other small business forums as your main social media venue. If you sell consumer-based products or services, properties like Facebook and Twitter are ideal for reaching your audience. By clearly pinpointing which properties will be your main focus, you can devote your time to the right activities, instead of doing the bare minimum on 10 different social sites. If you aren’t sure which social sites are the best for you, take a look at what businesses similar to yours are doing right – and wrong. Measuring how many followers and fans your competitors have on various social media properties can also be a great way to set social benchmarks for your organization.

Be positive, helpful, and transparent.

Always remember these three tips. Stay positive when using a company social media site, even if customers or prospects are less than thrilled. The Intuit Facebook page is a great example of this – although customers often share their frustrations about the product online, the team managing their social media efforts always responds politely. Being helpful is also key. If someone posts a question about your business, make an effort to respond in a timely manner – even if it’s just to tell the inquirer that you are researching the question at hand and will provide an answer soon. Transparency is another essential element in your communications. Use clear, concise language, and communicate exactly what’s happening on your side. If a customer or prospect needs help with an issue that can’t be resolved on Facebook, let them know exactly when and how you’ll be in touch.

Social media is a new adventure every day. You will find innovative and exciting ways to connect with customers and other professionals in your field. Utilize what social media has to offer you, but remember the above tips.

Growing your Business

Creating a Social Media Policy for Your Small Business

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