by Talal “Trip” Albagdadi

If you run a small business you’ve probably spent some time setting up a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account. Have you ever asked yourself why? Is it even worth the effort? The short answer is yes, but you need a plan and an approach that works for you and your business. What services or goods do you sell? Do they translate well to the Web? What is the best platform for your business? The Social Media brand list keeps getting longer every day and includes such sites as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, Tumbler, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Digg, reddit, Google Plus+ and MySpace. At the moment Pinterest has captured everyone’s attention but moments are fleeting and who knows who the new social media darling will be next week.

Social Media for Business

Facebook is without a doubt the biggest player in the game with over 900 million users. Twitter is a distant second with approximately 220 million users. Most of the other platforms offer some form of specialized media sharing and don’t necessary allow for as much customer engagement as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus+ or MySpace. Here are five good reasons to pursue a social media marketing campaign no matter what business you are in or how many employees you have:

1. Cost: Setting up an account with most of these sites is free. How many billboards, radio ads, print ads or TV ads are free? All of these traditional marketing approaches also have a limited reach. A local TV ad in a major market may have a potential reach of several million people. A Facebook Fan Page has a potential reach of almost 1 billion people.

2. Customer Engagement: There is no easier or more cost effective way to engage your customers. You can communicate with them and they can communicate with each other. You can also build a loyal following by consistently posting information that matters to your customers. One very easy way to engage your customers quickly is to ask them for feedback through a simple Facebook poll.

3. Page Rank: When anyone searches for your business online Google uses the number of pages that link back to your site as part of the measure which determines your placement on the search engine results page or SERP. Obviously, getting on the first page is important and the more back-links you have the better. Each of your social media accounts will contain links back to your site when you set them up and you should include back-links occasionally when you post new content.

4. Branding: Branding is what gives your business staying power and you can accomplish quite a bit of branding through social media depending on the type of material or content you post. Pictures are a very easy and quick way to establish a brand and you’ll have much more freedom and fewer restrictions when working with social media than you do when posting images at your business Web site.

5. Sales: While measuring sales as a direct result of social media is not easy to do; you can get the word out quickly about new products or offers. Social media gives you the power to rapidly let your customers know about close outs and promotions. Also, if you are able to engage the right audience you’ve essentially created a list of pre-qualified leads.

It should be noted that while many of these platforms are free the time it takes to setup and maintain an account is not. That is why it is important to keep your social media plan simple by focusing on the one or two platforms that will work for your business. Maintaining a single account such as Facebook for your business can take between 4 to 8 hours a week if done properly. Twitter demands that you post regularly in order to gain followers and this can also be time consuming.

The benefits still greatly outweigh the drawbacks and social media is worth pursuing for any small businesses in need of more exposure. To be successful it’s important to keep your social media plan simple, post regularly and create meaningful content. Creating a social media calendar is also a must in order to stay ahead of your fans and followers. If you are looking for a high rate of return with a minimal investment for your business then social media is a must.

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