ROCHESTER — Find out where potential customers are on social media, create business pages there and consistently schedule posts on those pages as part of an overall marketing campaign.
That was the overarching theme of a June 1 workshop, "Get Started Building Your Social Media Presence," led by Laurie Enos from Blue Dog Marketing.
"Do your research before you open any (social media) accounts," Enos recommended. "Whatever you do, do it and do it consistently."
The workshop was offered through a partnership between the Central Library of Rochester and the New York Small Business Development Center, which is based locally at SUNY Brockport. The center offers free services and referrals to entrepreneurs and anyone interested in starting up a business, explained Carla Vazquez, an SBDC adviser. Enos noted how the SBDC helped her become certified as a woman-owned business when she started her company several years ago.
No matter what kind of company a person is operating, Enos said one of the biggest benefits of using social media is the opportunity to interact and engage with clients or customers and other businesses.
Social media sites also offer virtual networking opportunities that do not require spending time away from the office, she added.
"You still need face-to-face time (with clients)," Enos added. "But (social media) increases your reach … and helps you stay connected."
Tami Bacon, who was among the 40 people who attended the presentation, said she has a fairly good understanding of the basics of social media, but her company’s presence needs improvement. And she agreed with Enos that working on a business’ social media presence needs to be part of a bigger marketing plan, said Bacon, who is with Caledonia-based Allen-Bailey Tag & Label.
"But that (work) can be overwhelming for a small company," she added. "Everything that brings information back to the organization, though, and starts a conversation adds new life. And that’s a good thing."
Starting conversations is what the major social media sites — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn — are all about, Enos noted. During the workshop, she participants through strategies for using those four sites and how each one can benefit small businesses.
Of the major social media sites, Facebook has the biggest reach, she said, with 70 percent of the U.S. population and more than 2.1 billion people worldwide actively using it for personal and professional pages.
Enos advised keeping business and personal pages separate on Facebook. She suggested creating business pages and posting things that would be of interest to potential customers, and then invite friends on personal pages to follow the business pages.
Potential business page content could include examples of when one’s company solved a problem, which could generate interest in products or services as well as drive traffic to the company website, she noted.
Posting at a variety of times on different days of the week provides information on when most page visits take place, she said, which can help a business develop ads for its page.
"You can really target a niche audience," she said. "That’s the value, status and power of Facebook."
YouTube’s reach also has grown to 1 billion users since Google purchased the video-sharing site in 2006, Enos said. The site helps businesses demonstrate products or expertise on a topic, promote events or offer customer testimonials.
"YouTube is an amazing way to get the word out about … a company," she said. "For example, you can show your (product) being made."
Companies also can use YouTube to post video blogs, "which allows people to see me and get to know me," she said. And businesses can cross-promote their social media presence by posting YouTube links and videos on Facebook pages.
All of a business’ social media links can be part of its LinkedIn presence, added Enos. Known as the social network for business professionals, LinkedIn helps with introductions to potential customers and eliminates cold calls. A business also can help connect people to others, which is viewed favorably, she said.
And Twitter, she noted, is all about making connections by starting conversations with followers.
With 310 million users worldwide, Twitter also has an expansive audience, with the largest demographic being adults ages 25-44. And a quarter of the 310 million users are journalists, which can help businesses attract media coverage, Enos noted.
"If you can get into the press, post those (links) and share the wonderful news (of your businesses)," she said.
No matter which sites a business utilizes most, social media posts should become a regularly scheduled task, she said.
As someone who just began using Twitter and has yet to create a website, Caren Collinge of Rochester said Enos’ presentation provided the insight she needed. Collinge, who started a jewelry-making business four years ago, said she regularly uses Facebook and the photo-sharing site Instagram, and will join LinkedIn next per Enos’ advice.
She also plans to be on the lookout for future workshops for small business owners.
"It was very helpful and encouraging," Collinge said of the presentation. "I would have done this stuff years ago but I didn’t know. You need that push. You need someone to say, ‘Do it this way.’"