Social Media 101: Getting Started on Top Networks

Social Media 101

Getting started with social media marketing can be a daunting process. What sites should you use? How do you set them up? What’s the right user name? How do you spread the word to build your fans and followers? Here’s a quick rundown on how to get started using social media to market your local business.

Select the Right Social Media Sites

There are countless social media sites available for today’s businesses to use to market themselves online. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that since it’s free to set up accounts on most of these sites, that using social media is “free.” But, unless your time isn’t worth anything, social media marketing is definitely not free. That’s why it’s important to be strategic and selective about where you want to establish your Web presence online. Because the more sites and profiles you set up, the more time it will take you to manage them.

So, it’s a best practice to focus on using the right social media sites for your business. Focus on those that have the best user base and a mix of the right audience for your business type. As a general rule of thumb, Facebook and Twitter are two of the most popular sites in the U.S., making them an important part of your social media marketing strategy. Other popular sites include LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+.

LinkedIn is great for businesses with an owner or employees who will actively use their professional profile, network in groups, answer questions, and share content.

Pinterest is a great site for businesses that are creating content such as infographics, blog posts with attractive images, or image galleries of their products and services.

A Google+ business page can be used similarly to a Facebook page, and now these pages are more important than ever since they can be merged with your Google+ Local (formerly Google Places) page and can be found in organic search.

Pick a Consistent User Name

It’s important to select a consistent user name and/or permalink URL across all the social media accounts you claim for your business. So, start by brainstorming a few name ideas, and get some feedback from employees or customers to see what sticks with them. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Keep it short. Most social networks have a limit on how many characters you can have in your user name. Twitter’s character limit is 15, so staying under this character limit is a good rule of thumb for length.

Include your business name. It may should go without saying, but try to include your brand name, or a component of it, in your user name. You may have to get creative with long business names. For example, Best Automotive & Repair Shop could try “BestAuto.”

Make it easy and clear. Avoid adding numbers, letters, or unnecessary abbreviations to your handle if possible. You want your business user name to look professional and easy to remember, as opposed to an individual’s user name, which can be more flexible with regard to the use of these elements.

Get local. One trick to finding a good user name is to add a local term such as a city or state name or abbreviation to a user name that isn’t available. For example, “BestAutoTulsa” would localize the user name and include the business name.

Once you’ve got some options for your social username, use a tool like namechk.com to see if your desired user names are available across all the sites you want to use. Try to select a user name that you can claim on all the top sites, and if necessary, make adjustments until you find a good user name that you can claim. If you have a short website URL, you could also check to see if that is available in the form of a user name on social media sites for added consistency.

Optimize Your Profile for Search & Local

Setting up and optimizing your accounts on top social networks can be an important part of optimizing these profiles to show up in search engines. So, keep a few things in mind for the profile or about pages on these sites:

  • Use your top SEO keyword along with your location keyword in the description of your business.
  • Consistently spell and abbreviate your business name in all social networks under the “about” section.
  • When an address is requested, format, punctuate, and abbreviate all elements of your address consistently across all sites, and make sure that it matches your website as well as the information on your local listings.
  • Add your business website or business blog URL into the URL section of all your social media profiles, rather than linking to another social media site or other “unowned” property (unless you can add more than one link).
  • Link to your other social media profiles in another field, if possible.
  • Include important keywords in other profile sections such as those for products, services, or business details.

Selecting Your Profile Image & Colors

It’s important to select the right image for your social media pages. Typically, a business should use their logo or another identifying illustration for their profile image to differentiate their profile as that of a business. Some businesses choose to use the business owner’s photo for their profile image. If you choose to do this, make sure to use a clean, professional, credible photo. Other tips to keep in mind:

  • Many social networks default to a square image for profile images, so have a square version of your logo created so you can use it without having your logo cropped or shrunk.
  • Use a consistent or similar image across all your social networks.
  • For social networks that allow customization such as text, links, or background colors, create a consistent color palate that matches that of your website.

Promoting Your Pages

Once you’re done getting your social media profiles set up and optimized, it’s important to promote them so that you can build your fan and follower base. Here are a few ideas local businesses can use to promote their pages:

  • Add buttons to your website, blog, and email signature that link to your social pages.
  • Share the link to your business’ social media pages with your friends, followers, and community using your personal profiles on those sites.
  • Email customers to let them know your business is now active on social media.
  • Promote your social media profiles on in-store signage, advertising, or other business materials.
  • Launch your profiles with a complementary offer to all new fans or followers, such as an exclusive coupon or discount to those who connect with your business on your page.

More Resources

Getting started on social media is an important step in building your business’ Web presence and marketing your local business online. Is your business using social media to connect with customers or reach new prospects? What sites are you finding most useful for marketing your business online? Share your thoughts in a comment!

Tiffany Monhollon

Tiffany Monhollon is an award-winning content, community, and social media marketing strategist who is passionate about helping businesses and professionals succeed online, currently serving as Director of Content Marketing at ReachLocal. She develops integrated strategies from the ground up, incorporating content, community, and social tactics to deliver online marketing, search optimization, social engagement, and reputation management results. She speaks and writes about online marketing and social media for sites like Entrepreneur, MarketingProfs, Small Business Trends, Media Post, Social Media Today, Business 2 Community, and the ReachLocal Online Marketing blog.

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