NEW YORK — Want to know the secrets to small business social media success? Why not ask the social giants themselves?
At American Express OPEN's second annual New York CEO BootCamp yesterday (Nov. 3), representatives from three of today's biggest social networks shared valuable insights for small business owners. The "Social Media Power Hour" panel, moderated by Lolly Wolly Doodle founder and CEO Brandi Temple, featured Twitter small business marketing manager Brinn Sanders, Pinterest partnerships manager Sandy Diao and LinkedIn senior account executive of marketing solutions Stacey Aronstein.
Sanders, Diao and Aronstein discussed some best practices for businesses on their respective sites, and what business owners can expect in terms of trends and future developments. [For a side-by-side comparison of the best social media marketing services, visit our sister site Top Ten Reviews]
Best advice: "Listen to what your customers are saying, and what other businesses in your sphere are saying. Understand what's working well and what isn't working, and build your strategy off of that. Build a content calendar that really highlights your business in its best way, shape and form."
Top current trend: "We asked consumers what they're doing [for holiday shopping]. People are using Twitter as a holiday shopping list. Three of every 10 dollars consumers are spending [this holiday season] will help a small business. Use Twitter to reach out and get on their lists."
How to grow your customer base: "People use Twitter to ask audiences what products they want to see and give sneak peeks. It creates a bigger buzz and resonates beyond your current follower base [through] a snowball effect [when followers share it]."
Biggest mistake: "Every social network is different. Don't think you can have one strategy. Twitter is short-form and visual-first. If you have something come over from a [larger post], it will get truncated. Make sure the actual copy you're crafting works with your network. Consider what the platform is. Your audience or the tone you use may vary across platforms."
What's next: "Content creation can be difficult. Everyone gets writer's block. We've created an iOS and Android app to help small businesses ... decide what to tweet about. On the advertising side of the product, [we now have a] goals-based user interface. [If you want] to drive traffic or generate leads, you can launch campaigns with that in mind." [Read more on Twitter's blog.]
Best advice: "[Ask yourself,] what is your goal? To acquire new customers? Engage existing customers? Small businesses underutilize [this latter group] — you have advocates on existing networks that you could be using. Businesses are surprised to find hundreds of thousands of pins from their website that people have already shared."
Top current trend: "On Pinterest, we connect different objects on the Web and connect the relationships between them. [Pinterest's] interest feeds are much more granular than category feeds, which are generic topics like art and fashion. We're getting to the nitty-gritty of specific kinds of fashion, brands, etc. When you browse these feeds, you can really capture people's intentions and what they're looking for."
How to grow your customer base: "Small businesses can take their online learning and use it in their stores. On Pinterest, [if you see] a certain product is being repinned and saved on different boards, it's an indicator that the product is popular and should be front and center in an offline store. When people see a Pinterest validator [sign in-store], customers are influences. Use Pinterest metrics to inform [your strategies]."
Biggest mistake: "Small businesses tend to latch onto an idea of who their target audience is. You don't want to do that because your audience could be much larger than you think it is. If you pin "coconut oil" because you sell it, you might think your target audience is only people interested in food. People may also pin it to hair and beauty [boards]. You may want to think about rebranding the way you curate pins on your profile."
What's next: "Interest feeds. [If you have] a specific target audience, you can go right after them or even beyond that to related interests. We're [planning] a strong investment in that in the near future. We're focused on improving search over time."
Best advice: "Establish your own personal brand and update your profile. Make sure you [have] a picture, headline and search terms."
Top current trend: "According to LinkedIn research, 50 percent of small business owners use social media for learning and insights. It's all about content [on LinkedIn]. It's about small businesses getting up and reading our content. There are Influencers you can follow [for their] original content, and Pulse, the way we serve articles, is very different [for each user] based on your industry and what you do."
How to grow your customer base:"Businesses can search for groups [in their industry] to find what their prospective customers are talking about. Join groups and listen to conversations customers are engaging in. It's a powerful way to learn from like-minded people in the community."
Biggest mistake: "Not putting your best foot forward. Your personal brand is a reflection of your company. After a meeting, people go back and look up the person they just met. If you're not on LinkedIn [or have an outdated profile,] you've missed an opportunity with prospective partners or customers. Have your profile be a reflection of who you are and what you want to say."
What's next: "One thing to look forward to in the near future is the ability for all members to post long-form content on LinkedIn. We have about 500 influencers now, but soon all can [publish]. It's a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader on LinkedIn."