Is a Social Network necessary for your Small Business?

January 31, 2013

We hear it everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, but what does it mean to the small business owner?  Here are some questions to determine if your business could benefit from a social network.

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  1. Do you know where your customers come from?
  2. Do you know how they learned about you?
  3. Do you have good customer retention (return customers)?
  4. Do you have strong customer service?
  5. Do you know where your customers go online – what social networks they use regularly?
  6. Do you know who the influencers are in your neighborhood?
  7. Do your best customers rave about you in their online communities?
  8. Do you know if there are bad reviews online about you?

If you answered “no” to a few of the questions above then a social network with a social media strategy could benefit you and your business.  Actually, if you answered “no” to even one of those questions a social media strategy could improve your small business.

The first step, that any social media professional will tell you, is to begin to listen.  This can be done in just a few steps.  The simplest is likely Google Alerts.  You must create a Google Account (gmail) in order to use Google Alerts.  You can set up your account here.

Once you have your Google account set up – then follow these 6 simple steps to receive email with information about the keywords you chose.

Step 1:  Point your browser to the Google Alerts BETA page (http://www.google.com/alerts). Enter the keyword(s) for the alert that you want to setup.  The alerts should be keywords such as your company name, your services, your competitor’s names; any topic you would like to find out if it is being discussed online.

Step 2:  Select the type of Alert you want to receive. The comprehensive Alert retrieves news from blogs, news sources, Google Groups messages and websites. You can choose to get results from only one of these sources, instead of all sources.

Step 3:  Choose how often Google will send the Alerts to you. Google can send your alerts as soon as it finds a match to your keyword, once daily or only once a week.

Step 4:  Enter the email address that you will use for your Alerts. If you don’t have a Google email account, you will need to register for one.

Step 5:  Click “Create Alert” when you are finished entering your keywords, choices of sources and frequency for messages.

Step 6:  Review and revise your alerts if you receive too much or too little information. Log in on the Google Accounts page. Choose “Manage Alerts” to see saved alerts. Delete alerts that you no longer need.

Alternative:  A more effective method is Chris Brogan’s “Grow Bigger Ears in 10 Minutes” approach.

Both method’s of listening above are free and only take a bit of time to set up.  Over several weeks just listen and note similarities.  Find out if your customers or potential customers have things in common.  Find out where your customer’s hang out online.  Find out what your competitors are doing with social media.

Once you feel like you understand what customers are saying about you and your business as well as your competitors it is then time to begin to think of a strategy to join the conversation.

My next post will be how to begin a social media strategy for the local, small business owner.

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