Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Small Businesses

In today’s world maintaining a presence on social media is an absolute must for any small business. After all these networks and apps offer entrepreneurs a large (and free) platform on which to engage with and acquire new loyal customers. However there are a number of ways that businesses go wrong when it comes to effective social marketing.

Here are some simple dos and don’ts when it comes to using social media for your small business:

DO: Keep up with new social networks

It seems that new apps and social networks are popping up all the time. Some will come and go while others will have surprising longevity (namely Snapchat). Be sure to keep up with what networks are “hot” and where there could be potential for reaching new customers.

DON’T: Feel like you need to use all of them

Not every social network or app will be right for every business. For example live streaming services like Periscope are proving popular but what would your business do with this platform? Not only is trying to shoehorn your way onto every social network a time-consuming project but doing social media badly is unlikely to gain you any fans. Bottom line: do your research on new social media opportunities but feel free to pass on ones that just don’t fit.

DO: Follow trending hashtags and see if you have something relevant to contribute

Both Twitter and Facebook offer views of what people are talking about in your area and around the web. Especially on Twitter this can often be an opportunity for brands and businesses to crack a joke or make a comment that ties into their product or store. Those following the hashtag will then see your Tweet, gaining you brand exposure. Some popular trending tags include #ThrowbackThursday and celebrations of offbeat national holidays like National Pizza Day.

DON’T: Post using a trending tag unless you’re 100% sure of its context

Far too many brands have found themselves in hot water because they reacted too quickly to a trending tag and ended up tweeting something offensive. Before sending out that clever tweet you have in mind be sure to confirm that you’re using the tag in the right context. Seriously — just Google some examples of how this could go wrong.

DO: Post frequently

Your followers want to hear from you and they want to know what sales you might have or what’s new in stock. If you only post once in a blue moon most customers will unfollow or just tune your out when you do post. Additionally the way Facebook’s page algorithm works you may notice that not all of your fans are seeing everything you post so keep that in mind when promoting sales and special offers. In those cases it might also be worth looking into “boosting” your post for a small fee.

DON’T: Post too frequently

No one likes to have their entire Twitter feed filled by one person or business. Admittedly it can be difficult to find the perfect balance but a good guideline is about five posts a day on Twitter and three a day on Facebook (spread out throughout the day). Both of those networks also offer free analytics tools that you can use to see how well each of your individual posts are doing — including impressions, link clicks, etc. — which will then allow you to adjust your posting frequency accordingly.

DO: Use scheduling tools

Many entrepreneurs might wonder how they’re supposed to dedicate all this time to social media when they’re running a business. Luckily there are many free and paid solution that will allow you to schedule posts across your accounts. For Twitter a free option is TweetDeck while Facebook allows you to schedule posts directly from your page. Buffer is a popular paid option that allows you to schedule posts across a number of social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

DON’T: Put your accounts on complete auto-pilot

Automation is great but it’s also easy to get carried away. While sites like IFTTT can help you post to a number of places at once, be sure that you’re tailoring your content to each network. For example keep in mind that there are character limits on Twitter and so simply pushing your Facebook updates through as tweets might cause them not to display properly. Additionally remember that customers want to follow you and not a robot — they can tell the difference.

DO: Engage and interact with customers

Whether they want to compliment you or have a suggestion for how your business can improve one of the most important aspects of social media is interacting with your customers. This is especially true for small businesses which thrive on word of mouth. If a customer gives you a “shout out” on Twitter be sure to respond to them, “like” their tweet, or even retweet them when appropriate. On Facebook you can respond to them and “like” their comment as well. More often than not this will give them even more incentive to spread the word about your business.

DON’T: Fight with customers or trolls (in public or in private messages)

Not everyone will have something nice to say about your business and it won’t take long to learn that the customer isn’t always right. As important as it can be to merely bite your tongue when dealing with rude customers in person it’s even more important online. Even if you send the person a private message there’s really nothing stopping them from sharing that with others. Unfortunately this will often make you look bad even if they were initially in the wrong. Basically the best thing to do is to reach out, keep your cool, and try to smooth things over but know when to walk away — some people just aren’t worth the hassle.

Every small business is different and that means their social media needs will vary as well. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to mastering social media these basic dos and don’t will help you navigate the waters more easily. Good luck.

This article originally appeared on Dyer News.

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