How Small Businesses Can Brush Up on Social Media needs

Many small business owners are now starting to think more heavily about the benefits and drawbacks greater participation in social media realms can have for their companies. While these efforts can certainly take a lot of time from employees that owners might feel could be better devoted elsewhere, they can also be extremely valuable in attracting new customers and engaging current ones.

As a consequence, those small business owners who are looking to expand will have to think hard about just how "worth it" these platforms can be, according to a report from The Associated Press. Of course, because there are now so many social media platforms out there for companies to use, it's important that owners find a way to strike a balance between what their intended audiences will use versus how many users the site has overall, as well as other factors that should be weighed into any such decision.

"Social media is where the eyeballs are and that's where you want to be," says Steve Strauss, a small business author. "You can build your brand and establish it."

For instance, Facebook is probably the best place to start when you're trying to wade into the potentially murky waters of first-time social media use, the report said. The site has 1.1 billion users worldwide, and therefore can certainly connect any small business to a large number of potential customers, almost regardless of their demographics. Once a company has set up its page on the site, it may be helpful to buy ads that will promote the profile to relevant users who might be interested in products or services a small business has to offer, and from there, it might be wise to offer exclusive deals or discounts to those who "Like" the page.

The same may also be true of Foursquare, which is a location-based application/social media platform that allows users to "check in" to places they physically visit, the report said. Many companies are now offering discounts to people who check into their locations on the site, and that can be a great way to incentivize both first-time and repeat business.

Twitter, too, can be a great way to promote a small business quickly and easily, and may be particularly helpful because it's so easy to share information and interact with followers on the site, the report said. Those worried about the time constraints of social media use may particularly enjoy Twitter because it only allows companies to send out messages with a maximum of 140 characters.

What other platforms can be used?
Depending upon the demographics of target audiences, businesses may also want to think about getting involved with Instagram, LinkedIn or Pinterest, the report said. While broader ranges of people might use Facebook or Twitter, these three have far more pronounced demographic subsets; Instagram and Pinterest, for instance, appeal largely to younger consumers, and likely tend to skew a little toward women and young people. LinkedIn, meanwhile, is mainly used by older professionals, most of whom are males. For these reasons, owners might want to think about who tends to buy their companies' products or services, and the best ways to engage them on these platforms.

Of course, social media use can, if done correctly, significantly increase the amount of business companies do, which can certainly help to bolster expansion plans. However, growing enterprises tend to have more considerable small business insurance needs, and those will have to be accounted for in a company's bottom line. As a result, thinking about ways to find more affordable liability insurance and other policies will likely be vital to ongoing success.