Find Out Why Social Media Is A Must for SMBs
used with permission from the HP Small & Medium Business Site

Let's start with the bottom line: If you're not participating in social media, your business is missing out. You no longer have any excuses ("I'm too busy" or "It's overwhelming"), it's time to get engaged.

In a recent survey by ROI Research reported in MediaPost, 40 percent of those surveyed use social sites to connect with brands and products. Thirty-seven percent learned about a new product or service from a social networking site, and 32 percent use social networks to recommend products or services to friends.

And it's not just consumers. In a recent study conducted by, more than half of small-business owners reported using social media sites to gather information about companies, products and prospects before buying or doing business with them.

The social networks are effective sales tools as well. According to the Inbound Marketing Report, 41 percent of Twitter and LinkedIn users, 44 percent of Facebook users and 46 percent of businesses with a company blog say they acquired customers through those channels.

Obviously it's time to jump on the social media bandwagon. Are you ready? Here's a quick overview.

The most widely-known general business networking site, LinkedIn is useful if you sell business-to-business products or services, want to build a reputation, or are seeking new employees, vendors or partners.

  • Get started by creating a profile and creating a unique URL for it that comes up in Google search results.

  • Adjust your privacy settings so your network is notified whenever you update your profile. Update frequently so your contacts get regular reminders about you and your business.

  • Fill out the "What are you working on?" field in your profile to attract potential customers or people who can help with your latest projects.

  • Use the Introduction feature to get introduced to potential clients, contacts or employees.

  • Build your reputation as an expert by joining or starting a LinkedIn group related to your industry, or by answering questions on LinkedIn Answers.

  • Participate in the new Small Biz Nation group. It's a great place to meet, share knowledge and exchange ideas with fellow business owners and get answers from industry and small business experts.

The best-known consumer social networking site, Facebook works especially well if your business markets to consumers. The idea is to create "fans" or to get people to "like" your product or brand.

  • Create a Facebook Fan Page for your business and keep it lively by continually posting new content. You can post everything from photos and videos to questions, updates and surveys.
  • You have the option to let fans post on your page as well, which can be a great way to build a community of people sharing what they think about your products or services.
  • Use Facebook's analytics to see what posts get the best results and use that intelligence when you create new posts.
  • B2B companies can use Facebook to get insights into prospective clients or contacts. Google someone who's on Facebook and their page will show up. Depending on their privacy settings, you may be able to view their hobbies, interests and other details that can help build a relationship.

Twitter is a micro blogging service whose users send short messages, called "tweets" (up to 140 characters, including spaces). Twitter users "follow" each other.

  • Put a profile and photo on your Twitter page, then import your email contacts to Twitter and start following them. See who they follow, and soon you'll start building your own network.
  • Remember Twitter is about conversation. Share links, answer questions, talk to other users - don't just toot your own horn.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity. Better to have a several hundred followers who really matter than several thousand who don't.
  • B2B companies can use Twitter to alert customers to discounts, sales and promotions. B2C companies can use it to follow industry leaders, prospective customers, competitors. You should follow the large corporate marketers who often share information and special promotions.
  • Use 3rd party applications to navigate Twitter or it's all too easy to get overwhelmed. Visit to find free apps. Popular apps include Tweetdeck, HootSuiteSeesmic.

Most experts agree it's a necessity to create a blog - especially if you own a B2B company and want to raise your profile as an industry expert. It's likely much easier than you think to start blogging.

  • Use simple software to build your blog. Wordpress is the most popular. TopTenReviews has a useful side-by-side comparison of blogging software.
  • Figure out your focus and be ready to post two or three times a week.
  • Keep your posts short and your tone conversational and interesting.
  • Visit other blogs in your industry, post comments there and start to network.
  • Promote your blog by submitting it to RSS and blog directories such as Technorati, Yahoo, Alltop and Google.

Make sure you have time to do your own blog; if you don't, build your reputation by guest-blogging and leaving comments on key industry blogs and include links to your website. Your blog entries should be clearly written, grammatically correct and typo-free. People will judge you from reading your blog - make sure you don't give them the wrong impression.

Make It Work
Spread the word about your social media efforts by including links to your accounts on your website, in your marketing materials and in your email signature. Include your social media addresses on your business cards and letterhead.

As you begin to explore social media, you'll figure out which sites and tactics work best for you. (Don't overlook YouTube; it's the world's 2nd largest search engine.) Because social media consumes a lot of time, you should regularly reassess your ROI and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit SmallBizDaily to sign up for her free TrendCast reports.