Social Media Tips for Small Business

As social media evolves and it becomes harder and harder to get your voice heard amongst the noise there are a few pieces of best practise that all businesses should follow.  These are especially pertinent for small to medium sized firms who are launching themselves into social media for the first time.a street with shops

1. Stick to what you know. If you’re a garden maintenance business we don’t want to hear about your views on the Alternative Vote. What we want are your tips for growing the perfect sweetpeas and a nudge when it’s time to get the tomato plants in. Remember you’re the expert and your customers will listen to you if you demonstrate these skills and give them genuinely interesting and informative information.

2. Tell me that you’ve joined the party. Let your customers know that they now have a new way to communicate with you. Put up a sign in your shop, email your customer database or add Facebook ‘Like’ functionality to your website. No one will know you’re there unless you tell us and talking to a void can be depressing for even the most optimistic of us.

3. Give me a reason to be your friend. Social media is a crowded place with everyone competing for your customers’ attention. How do you stand out in all that noise? Give them a reason to be your friend. If you’re an independent coffee shop will you be offering free refills for everyone who ‘Checks In’ with you on Foursquare? If you’re a fashion retailer can I be notified of sales and special offers via Facebook? You need to make your customers feel as if they’re being rewarded for their loyalty to you.

4. Make a plan and make some time. We all know how precious time is when you’re running your own small business and it may seem daunting to think about adding yet another task to the daily list of must-dos. The trick with social media is to plan ahead – think about what you want to post and pull together a weekly plan of attack. You can then use a service like Tweetdeck to schedule these updates well in advance and it’ll then go away and publish them for you across Facebook and Twitter at the right time and in the right place.

5. Remember that this is SOCIAL media. You need to be prepared for your customers to talk to you through these channels as well as listening to you. It might also be the case that they aren’t always saying nice things about you. If they have a reason to complain about service and they do this through social media this isn’t such a bad thing. Resolve the issue in public and show everyone just how much you care about customer service. Don’t ignore the complaint, deal with it and show all your customers how important they are to you.

Foursquare gets a make over but will it make a difference?

Foursquare imageIt’s been 2 years since Foursquare was launched and after obsessively checking in where ever we went & “making life a game” we Levellers pretty much lost interest in this social media service that asked for a lot yet seemed to give little in return, especially here in the UK.

Now, according to a company blog post of late last night, Foursquare is finally getting a make over and a whole lot more functionality. The aim of the game is to drive engagement and loyalty and stop the churn that’s been a big problem for the service in the past.

So, what are the new features?

1. Discovery – The new “Explore” tab aims to deliver recommendations to you based on your past behaviour, the behaviour of your friends and your loyalty to certain places.  The recommendations also include a bit of sophistication around time of day & day of week targeting. This information is driven by check ins, so arguably the more the check in the better the recommendations will become.

2. Encouragement – The concept of “Life as a game” has always been central to the Foursquare concept and this makeover sees a dramatic change in the leaderboard functionality to encourage us all to play a little harder.

The old leaderboard (and its simple points system and Sunday night reset) is replaced with a sliding 7-day barometer of you and your friends. Check-ins now trigger points for dozens of different types of actions – everything from discovering new places, trying new types of restaurants, visiting new cities, getting groups together, hanging out with old friends, and a few things you might not expect.

In their own words “From the early days, we’ve heard stories of foursquare’s game mechanics being a subtle motivator for trying a new restaurant or venturing a little further away from your local haunts. We’re excited to see how some of the new elements we’ve added will encourage people to actively explore the world around them.”

3. Loyalty – To self centred and materialistic folks like us, what we get back from a service that asks for as much input as Foursquare does is pretty important in getting us to use it.   So, Foursquare have introduced a whole lot more functionality aimed at merchants and businesses that are looking to reward our loyalty.  They’ll now be able to offer Specials to groups of friends, regulars, new customers, Mayors or simply anyone and everyone.  As users we’ll also be able to see Specials nearby, so it’s easier to find places that reward foursquare users.

So, in short a whole load of new stuff that aims to get us playing more but importantly rewarding us for doing so.  Will it get us back in the game?  Well, in our case, if the rewards are good enough, then the short answer is yes.  But will this be enough to drive global expansion of the service and compete with the likes of Facebook Places?  We’re not so sure it is.  To our minds Foursquare remains the domain of the hipster urbanites who can actually get value from the service but it’s difficult to see this rolling out to a more general population.  But good luck Foursquare, any social media service that tries to take a little bit back from Facebook is a good thing.

The new functionality rolled out on Android and iPhone last night, so get updating!

To read the blog post in full http://blog.foursquare.com/2011/03/08/foursquare-3/