One of the most common reasons small businesses get overwhelmed by social networking is because they jump on the bandwagon filled with enthusiasm and then, in the midst of all the busyness of business can’t afford to keep up with all the tweeting, facebooking, and posting.

So, more often than not, you find Twitter profiles looking all sad and lonesome, FB pages that have old updates and blogs that don’t go beyond a few odd posts.

Does that mean a small business should not network online? Or does it mean that the only way they can do it is by outsourcing it to someone? No and no.

What it does mean is that a small business owner must be smart and choose their social networks wisely.

Here is how to make the best social networking decisions for your small business:

Study the Market

What product or service do you offer? Where are your customers based? Where do they congregate socially? As a small business owner, I trust that you know the answers to these questions. If not, I seriously recommend using Lara Galloway’s awesome tips to know your customers.

If you do, then, you also know what social networking sites do they hang out at. Will you find them on Facebook or LinkedIn? Make a choice. Do they prefer forums instead of Twitter? Are they Pinterest fans?

Based on that, choose your social networks. If you have to be on both Facebook and Twitter, then do that. If it is only a few social forums, then join those.

Schedule and Plan

Make sure that you schedule time for networking and engaging with your community into your daily agenda. Create an editorial calendar for the type and content of posts that you’d like to share on your social networks and then use that as a guideline. Jumping in without a plan usually leads to burnout and overwhelm.

Make Use of Applications

I am 100% anti- auto DMs but I am ALL for using applications like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to help you share your content, products, services with those in different time zones. Let’s face it. You can’t be online all the time. However, if you use those applications to only schedule tweets and updates, you’ll not be engaging and building a community. So, make sure you communicate, talk, ask, interact, laugh(yes, you can do that virtually) and engage with your fans and followers.

Tailor Your Interactions According to the Network

While the primary aim of most social networks and forums is the same : engagement and community, the type of conversations that happen over there tend to vary. Twitter is short, sweet and fast. Facebook can be more involved and obviously, lengthier. LinkedIn is relatively professional and business-oriented. Social forums are about discussions and answering questions. So, tailor your content accordingly.

Follow the Ground Rules

  • Never, ever, never spam.
  • No insulting, name-calling, or bad-mouthing a customer or your competition.
  • Acknowledge mentions, compliments, and criticism.
  • Have fun. Be real. Be there.

How do you make social networking work for your small business?

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