Just a few years ago, social media or digital marketing was heralded as the “Great Equalizer” — a tool that would give small businesses an equal footing with the giants (enterprise businesses). With the recent change in organic reach at Facebook, is that still true? Is social media a boon or bust for small business?
Social media boon or bust?
It’s getting tougher for small businesses to compete with the big boys when it comes to social media — just like traditional media. That’s because GOOD social media isn’t free anymore. In fact, maybe it never was. Small businesses will still find social media marketing a great value, but not free.
Here are some things to spend a little money on if you want to ride the social media boon with your small business:
A cool website — $1500 (and up)
OK, I know you can get a free website through Wix, Google Sites or even WordPress and a few other places, but you won’t get much value from them. Free websites don’t offer enough branding and flexibility and often don’t include SEO tools or analytics to monitor performance. Spend a little money and get a RESPONSIVE website that looks good on a mobile device. Keep it simple, but be sure to integrate social media (both for joining and liking) and think about an email list capture program (MailChimp offers free email for small businesses.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t get suckered in to a deal where a firm creates your website for free then charges you for it on a monthly basis afterwards. You’ll find this a truly expensive option.
You can’t just put up posts and expect them to bring organic traffic on Facebook or your website anymore and other sites will likely follow suit. Plan on spending a little money and monitoring results to optimize your ad spend.
Analytics – $39
Google Analytics are free, but you’ll probably want some other analytics tools to help track performance across your social media marketing efforts. I use SproutSocial, which is really a combination of analytics and social media automation. It’s not anywhere near as powerful as enterprise-level analytics like SimplyMeasured, SocialBakers, SAP and others, but it costs $39/month rather than $100s/month. It also handles tricky tasks such as finding influencers, building your networks, and curating content. A good investment for a small business.
Social media platforms
A Google+, Facebook, and Twitter are pretty much a necessity. You might add Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, and a few others if you have the bandwidth. Use your social platforms to share your content, curated content from other great folks in your product area, and build community by creating engagement with fans.
YouTube videos, podcasts, and webinars are also pretty easy these days by investing a few dollars and some time to buy software to help. I use Powtoon, for instance, the quickly and easily create animated videos that I share on YouTube and on my blog. Powtoon is free or $228/year to get upgraded, which removes Powtoon’s branding and increase the length of your video (also gives you access to more graphic elements, music …).
Google Hangouts (and Google Hangouts on Air) are quick and easy, FREE ways to conduct webinars with interested folks (although they must have a Google+ to participate).
A great hosting company is a MUST for your social media boon rather than bust. Look for hosting that’s up more than 99% of the time, is fast, and responds quickly to support requests. I use Websynthesis and love it.
Some “nice to have” extras
Graphics — Get some nice images and a logo for your business. Fiverr and several other sites feature creatives willing to create graphics and other marketing products for just a few dollars. Be careful and check their previous work and recommendations before hiring someone through these sites (or any other for that matter.
Paid themes — sure, you can use free WordPress themes (or free themes on other platforms), but they’ll cost you big time in the end. That’s because many free themes include maleware, are difficult to use unless you’re a developer, and aren’t very responsive — looking wonky on a mobile device. I use Genesis framework and I love it. So does Google.
Landing pages — I use Premise for landing pages. It’s very versatile and easy to use — creating professional-looking landing pages that allow A/B testing.
Plugins — most platforms offer a variety of plugins to extend the utility of the site. Most important are social sharing, analytics, and SEO plugins. Others are great to have.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten a bunch of things that are nice to have when running a small business site, but these are the biggies. Also, take a look at my list of marketing tools for more recommendations.
Add your favorites in the comments and this post will become increasingly valuable to visitors.
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