The business marketing landscape has rapidly changed in a short period of time. Small business owners are frequently told that to be successful, they should “be on” social media, but they’re never given an idea why they should be there or how they should go about it. And if you started your business 15 or 20 years ago, you have probably had a hard time even seeing the point in this whole ongoing discussion. So why should you care about being engaged in any kind of online social conversation? Perhaps retired U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki said it best; “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

Social Participation is Becoming Increasingly Relevant

Social Media for Business - Spark Marketer

In our agency, we have seen that social media signals (Tweets, Facebook posts, Google+ posts, etc.) have been playing an increasing role in Google’s search rankings. While not an end-all be-all, Google has seen the value in giving brands and companies a boost in search visibility if they see a lot of social media “chatter” about that company. It is a good sign of a healthy company that connects with its customers, and cares about providing useful information and service to people. Conversely, when customers interact with a company online, it tells Google that the company is engaged, trustworthy, and worth talking about.

So how do you incorporate timely and relevant online social interactions into your business marketing strategy? It turns out, the answer is not much different online than it is offline…

Go Where Your Customers Are

A major reason you need to maintain a presence in social media is the fact that both your potential and existing customers are there. The age demographics bear this out. On Facebook, adults, aged 25 to 34, are the largest user group. However, users aged 55 and older are the fastest growing age group. Twitter, while not as popular as Facebook, commands a large share of the adult population too. Needless to say, there are lots of homeowners among users 25 years and up!

Pinterest and Instagram are relatively newer networks to the social media-sphere, but they are also important. Women, who make many of the household decisions, make up around 70% of the Pinterest user base. Instagram’s user base is more varied, but you’ve got great potential for reach there ever since Facebook purchased it. Because Facebook has a financial stake in promoting it, Instagram is going to show up in front of lots of eyeballs. Again, there are quite a few homeowners that regularly view their Pinterest and Instagram accounts.

All of these numbers about user groups serve as a clear indication that those that aren’t utilizing the various social media networks are missing out on the chance to reach a lot of eyeballs. That’s a lot of eyeballs that own homes that have chimneys that will need cleaning and repairs. You will want to educate those people on your services through your social outlets.

Remember, It’s Not About You, It’s About Them

This brings us to the how part of the social media equation. How do you go about Tweeting and Facebooking and Pinning? First, you need to think about social media as a conversation. If you only post things about your company, you are, in effect, only broadcasting commercials about yourself. Think about it this way. Would you enjoy being around someone who only talks about themselves, and doesn’t engage the people around them? Your potential customers aren’t going to engage with a company that doesn’t engage with them.

This means you should pay attention to what your customers pay attention to. What are the events going on in your local market? Do you sponsor a little league baseball team? What types of volunteer work do you and your employees do? Show people that you are engaged with your local community. Remember, it is possible to talk to people about your community involvement without sounding like you are bragging. Isn’t that what you are already doing when you converse in your real life relationships? There’s that word again: conversation.

Learning By Doing

Why you should participate in social media should now be pretty obvious. That’s where you will find lots of people to network with, and your business will have a greater chance of remaining relevant for years to come. How you participate is not as easily definable, but the best way to learn is to simply do it. Go into the various networks. See how people interact. Talk to people. Again, don’t you already do this type of thing in real life? You know…have conversations.