While using social media to promote your company was once a novel way to gain new business, today it's practical a requirement for any self-respecting business owner. Unlike traditional promotional formats, social media platforms allow for recommendations to spread like wildfire, and also give businesses the chance to interface with their clientele directly and quickly address problems. That said, successfully using social media to your advantage is more difficult than many make it out to be.
The first step to promoting your business successfully online is deciding what websites and platforms you want to use for your promotion. Two networks stand out as obvious. The first is Facebook, which nearly everyone under 30 and many adults visit multiple times daily. Unlike more anonymous social media platforms, your customer can directly contact you on Facebook. The second necessary platform is Twitter, which has the benefit of allowing news and promotions to spread more quickly than on other platforms through retweets.
If you live in a highly populated area, you may be able to harness the power of other social media platforms. Top options include FourSquare, which allows its users to "check-in" when they visit your business; Tumblr, a microblogging service, and Quora, where you can engage with people in answering questions.
One of the keys to successfully promoting your business on social media is making it seem as though you're doing the opposite. While you can definitely talk about your business, you want to make it appear as though you're a real person on the sites rather than some promotional or coupon-dispensing robot. Spend some time seeing what people are really like on the site (the tone they use, the level of sarcasm, how they respond to questions) and try to post and tweet accordingly. If your friends or followers feel like they can actually engage with you, they're more likely to tell their friends about your profile and hopefully patronize your business.
While paying for advertising on Twitter is mainly suited to large businesses, you can buy targeted advertising on Facebook that will directly reach clientele in your area. Facebook lets you make a small advertisement with an image and a limited amount of text, and you enter information about what group of people you'd like to see your ad; you can choose gender, age, region and other interests in designing your ad. Facebook will deliver the ad to your chosen group on a pay-per-view basis. Ads on Facebook can be quite expensive, so you may want to experiment with buying a lower quantity package and seeing how successfully it goes.
One way to quickly gain a large social media following is to use exclusive promotions through your online profiles. Consider offering customers a percentage discount or free item if they mention a specific word or phrase you mention online; this will make your customers feel like insiders and more closely connected to your company. This is a great way to drive new customers into your store as a loss-leader.