Part II: Using Social Media to Promote Your Business
In a world where African Americans and other minorities face extreme difficulty creating tech-based companies, it is important for would-be entrepreneurs to create their own solutions. At the Black Women’s Roundtable’s recent financial workshop, Linking Broadband Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, several black tech entrepreneurs and experts weighed in.
Sharing her tools on using social media to improve the success of a start-up business, Black Women’s Roundtable Telecommunications Policy Advisor Joycelyn Tate cautioned, “Social media is not just about Facebook. For your business, you need to establish a business Facebook page and a business Twitter account that is totally separate from your personal Facebook page or Twitter account.” She also recommended that entrepreneurs use industry-specific social media research, and that they be present in the industry-specific sites instead of just being on Facebook.
Kristal High, publisher and editor of Politic365, a premier digital destination for politics and policy related to communities of color, agreed, saying that social media is an integral component of the company’s business plan.
Tate provides social media consulting on a one-on-one, group, or webinar format to small businesses who are serious about improving their bottom line. “And whatever you do, if you are serious about your business, stop calling your business a ‘side hustle,’” she advised. “You need to give your business the respect that it deserves if you want it to succeed.”
At the workshop, Tate provided a 5-Point Plan for Leveraging Social Media to Help Promote Your Business:
1. Identify Listening Tools. Start with what’s called “listening tools.” These are basic tools like Google Alerts, Tweet Deck or Viral Heat that send you direct information on a daily basis about anywhere online that your brand or company is mentioned. This is really important to a business because now that everybody has the ability to publish information online, you may find that people are talking about your company in unexpected places and ways. So you really want to know what’s being said about your business.
2. Establish a Presence on Industry-Specific Social Media Sites. Your next step is to identify where the most conversations are happening relevant to your company and determine the best tools and channels to interact and engage potential customers. For many companies, this might mean establishing a business (not personal) Facebook page or Twitter account so you can tap into those customers.
Also realize that there are hundreds of social media networks out there. Some of these social networks focus on specific things (like pet ownership or a specific sport or industry). So in addition to a presence on the more popular social media sites (e.g. Facebook and Twitter), also establish a presence on social media sites that are specific to your business or industry.
3. Strategize About Your Overall Business and Marketing Goals. Before you develop your presence on social media, you have to first use some strategic thinking about your business and your marketing objectives. For instance, you have to think about who you’re trying to reach and what value you have to share with your customers – this means not just self-promotion of your business all the time. Instead, share things like industry updates. For instance, if you’re a restaurant owner, share cooking tips. Link to articles or blogs relevant to your business or industry and your customers.
The operative word in social media is “social.” So you have to engage your social media followers. You can do this by asking for feedback to a question or offering a contest or getting them out to volunteer for a cause or industry event. These are the types of things that keep people engaged and coming back to your site – because they’ll be curious to know what information you have to share with them the next time. They’ll stop visiting your social media platform if all you do is talk about you and your business.
4. Cross-post Over Several Social Media Platforms. You also want to cross-reference over different social media platforms in order to reach people where they are. For instance, if you are on Twitter and Facebook, you should also link your Twitter and Facebook presence to your web page and vice versa. And don’t just repeat the same information on your Twitter, Facebook and web site. Change it up a bit. There’s no need to visit all of your sites if you just repeat the same information on all of them. So share different aspect of the same information. For instance, if you’ve read an interesting article relevant to your business, share different points discussed in that article on each of your social media platforms.
5. Make Some Time – As Little as One Hour Per Week. Many small business owners say they don’t have the time or personnel resources to stay on top of social media. But you cannot afford not to – it’s free. You can start to establish a good social media presence by committing just 20 minutes, three days a week – that’s just one hour per week.
There are tools that you can use to help manage your time on social media such as Tweet Deck, which sets your tweets to publish days, weeks, or even years in advance.
And remember, with social media, you’re not writing a lot of information – people want their information short and quick. So you can link to interesting blogs or articles that other people have written if you don’t have the time to write a blog post yourself.
An Abundance of Help
With the increasing awareness of the difficulties facing minority tech entrepreneurs, it is refreshing to know that there are resources, experts, organizations, and forums out there dedicated to helping entrepreneurs surmount these obstacles.
The Black Women’s Roundtable is an intergenerational network of The National Coalition; its mission is to bring together diverse women to motivate Black women to engage in all levels of civil society. The National Coalition is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing civic engagement in Black and underserved communities. Current initiatives of the organization include Black Youth Vote!, Black Male Initiative, and the Unity 2012 Voter Empowerment Campaign. For more information on The National Coalition log on to www.ncbcp.org.
Maurita Coley, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of MMTC, is the former Executive Director of Capital Area Asset Builders and a former Partner at the Davis Wright Tremaine Law and Cole Raywid & Braverman law firms. She earned her law degree from Georgetown Law where she was a recipient of the 2011 Paul R. Dean Award, and she holds a BA in Communications from Michigan State University. Coley served on the BET executive management team in the 1990’s.