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Unless you’ve been living on the moon, you can’t have failed to notice that social media is on the rise. Everybody, it seems, is tweeting, sending status updates and recording podcasts and videos.

The thing is?is it right for you, the small business owner? And how on earth do you use it without boring everyone with the in depth detail about what you had for breakfast, or what the cat just did? And, more importantly, is it going to work for you?…are you going to get business out if it?

I get asked about social media all the time – whether it works, whether it doesn’t, how to do it properly and so on. I also give a lot of talks on it, and these questions come up there too. And, yes, I too had those questions when I first started out with social media marketing: if you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I signed up to Twitter with trepidation?I wasn’t really sure what I was doing and had to learn as I went along.

However, three years later (and having taken out a new Twitter account as I had too many of the wrong followers on the old one!) and I now have social media working beautifully for me, and I know that over 28% of my monthly turnover currently comes from social media. One very lovely business owner I was speaking to recently said that about 90% of her business comes via social media!

So – does it work?

Yes, definitely, but you have to do it properly.

And you have to allow it some time: in my experience, you need to allow at least six months of regular and consistent activity on social media before it turns into paying business for you.

Let’s get clear on what social media is, because that’ll help explain how to “do it properly”. I describe it as the online version of your local community. When you go about your daily routines, you come into contact with people: your friends, other businesses, shops that you buy from, groups that you belong to (e.g. your Zumba dance class, your landscape painting class) and so on. And that’s just the same online?they’re just around the world as opposed to where you live.

And when you come into contact with people in your local community and at networking events, you do not rush up to them and sell your business, do you? You chat, get to know them, build relationships. To some people your business is relevant, to some it isn’t. Some will buy from you, others won’t. Some will be joint venture partners, others will be businesses that you can refer people to. And some people become friends!

So, why do people sell on social media given that it’s a community? No idea! What I can tell you is that when small businesses do nothing but sell via their social media updates, it puts people off.

Social media may or may not be right for your business. If it is right, then you need to see social media as just another tool in your marketing toolbox. There are lots of social networks around, for instance Facebook, Linked In and Twitter to name the top three (although officially, Twitter is a micro-blogging site, not a social network).

To make it work for your business, you need to have a social media strategy, just as much as you should have a marketing strategy, networking strategy and so on.

You need to decide what you need it to do?i.e. to show the world how much of an expert you are in your particular area, what a nice person you are, build relationships with people you wouldn’t have already met?and to warm people up so they come into your marketing pipeline.

When you do that, and are very clear about your message, your target audience, and what information you put out there (a recent study showed that only 20% of Twitter accounts give information?and those have the largest number of followers), you’ll start to draw the right kind of people towards you.

And some of those will turn into paying clients, or buy your wares.

Then you’ll be able to smile and say “yes it works!”.

Have a great week!

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