It seems like everywhere you look on the Internet, someone is telling you to use social media to help promote your brand. Unfortunately, many of those sages fail to mention that not every business is suited to Twitter, or that it requires intricate strategy to tie your brand to social media. As a result, you have thousands of medical practices, plumbing services, and contact solution manufacturers hungrily skulking Twitter feeds and shooting out information that even their customers don’t care about.

Not long ago, I held down a part-time job at a boutique shoe store. It was extremely laid-back; after four years in business, the owner had only recently integrated a time and attendance system for his employees. One day he decided he wanted to “get into the Twitter game.” His first tweets were of the most inane order – the kind of tweets that memes on the Internet make fun of. When it became clear the only people interested in following him were bots and eggs, I convinced him to let me take the reins. I was no expert by any means, but I did learn quite a bit about what makes Twitter successful for that particular small business. Here is some of that advice, submitted in the hopes that you will be able to use it to skip past the awkward phase of your small company’s Twitter adventure.

Fix your Site

If your site is fine, disregard this advice. If your site is busted (get a number of opinions), this is the first thing you need to repair if you have any hope of securing customers. No matter what social media you are using, chances are you are pointing back to your website on all of them. If you aren’t, you should be. And if you are pointing back, it should look like a site people will want to navigate and spend their time on, not a Freewebs site you’ve been running since 2001. Make your content as relevant as possible, add quality pictures, and try to avoid stock photos, because there is a higher chance customers will have seen it on some other site.

Optimize

To that end, you may want to take search engine optimization into account. SEO represents a broad, long-term strategy that’s designed to increase your site’s visibility in search engine results. It contains many component parts, but social is becoming increasingly important. SEO is getting more personal with the roll out of Google’s “Search Plus Your World.”

Another element of SEO involves improving the architecture of your site so that it is better constructed for search-engine spiders. There is tons of free advice all over the internet with regard to doing that yourself, and if you feel like you could use a boost, you can look at low-cost PPC campaigns or more aggressive SEO strategy.

Promote your Authority

Establishing yourself as a thought leader who is active and knowledgeable about your industry will attract social followers, but don’t do it in a fulsome way. You never want to trick someone into following you – because then they feel like they are tricked. Stick with the facts, and if your business is as good as you say it is, that fact should be reflected in your brand.

If you are taking the Twitter route, you can link to articles that are relevant to your field (hard to do if you are a vacuum repairman; if you have a blog, you can write those articles yourself. The key with social media is being social. Tweeting and posting goofy updates are not enough. You have to engender your audience with a desire to participate in your antics. Again, there are varying methods for achieving this, and they often depend on what kind of business you are promoting.

These are but three of an arsenal of techniques you can use to tie your business brand with a digital presence – whether it’s on social media, a website, or the side of a Google Places search. Whether you are just starting your business or intensifying your branding efforts, creating a cohesive representation of your company on the Internet and in real life is more important than ever.

- Joseph Baker

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