Mandy Arnold knows the social media tools available for small businesses. The opportunities to increase customer interactions have been around for years. But, she also knows the road to creating an online presence is not always easy to follow.
Arnold is president of Gavin Advertising in York and a board member of Downtown Inc. She teaches seminars on social media for small businesses and has helped Downtown Inc build its social media plan.
"When creating a business, you have to know who your customer is to be successful," Arnold said. "Success on social media starts with the same thing: know your customer."
Concentrating posts to Twitter and Facebook for when a customer base is online will increase visibility, she said. Create opportunities for new customers to learn what services are offered. Learn what customers find appealing, and what they avoid.
"Be engaging, but not annoying," Arnold said.
Leslie Einhorn Ravitz runs the Twitter account and Facebook page for the Yorktowne Hotel.
Rather than be just another business on Facebook, Ravitz aims to be "like a friend."
"We're thought of as York's community hotel," she said. "We want to be part of the family."
Social media gives the hotel personality, she said.
In the two years since creating a Facebook page, Ravitz has seen Yorktowne's online popularity grow.
The hotel now has over 1,100 likes, or "friends," as Ravitz prefers to think of them.
And that mindset is key to growth, Arnold said.
"When people 'like' something on Facebook, any information posted by the business can spread," she said.
In creating a social media plan for Downtown Inc, Arnold started by cultivating a role within the culture of downtown York.
"We became the promotional arm for retailers and events in real time," Arnold said.
It's important to keep track of what people are engaging with, but also what they are ignoring, and change accordingly, Arnold said.
"It could be something as simple as finding the language that works," she said.
But the process was gradual.
"We had to learn what information people wanted, and now Downtown Inc is one of the only resources on social media to find all the events downtown," she said.
Here is a quick list of dos and don'ts from Mandy Arnold:
--- Think realistically -- Make sure you're getting a good return on the time you are investing in learning and using a platform.
--- Be visual -- If you're having a sale, post pictures of featured products. Photos get attention, but make sure the experience is consistent with your business.
--- Be authentic -- Deliver personality, not propaganda. Build an atmosphere around what customers value most.
--- Be accessible -- Always include 'like' and 'follow' buttons on emails and your website. If you make it too hard to subscribe, people won't.
And here's what doesn't work:
--- Don't over post -- Too much activity can become a nuisance. Remember, people can 'unlike,' too.
--- Watch your language -- Social media is public. A frustrated message from a customer needs to be handled as though in front of an audience.
--- Avoid missed opportunities -- If someone sends a message, quickly get back to them.
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