Social media can make your business or sink it. Bad reviews on Yelp (NYSE:YELP) can make people think twice about visiting, and not having a Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) or Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) account may keep customers from visiting in the first place.
Gone are the days when a company could buy an ad in the Yellow Pages and sit back for the rest of the year. Social media is ever changing, and its two-way nature means it has to be actively managed.
It's not hard to have a proper presence on social media, but it does take effort. You need to set up the appropriate pages, monitor them, and, in some cases, actively add content.
Here's how to get started
The first thing you need to do is set up your pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp. If your business lends itself to good visuals, you may also want to consider Instagram and Pinterest. Make sure that your page on each site has all the basics -- business name, address, phone number, email, and, if you're a restaurant, a menu (so your customers don't have to post pictures of it).
Facebook and Twitter (along with Instagram and Pinterest) require that you post content. This should be things that would be interesting to potential and current customers. You can post about a sale or special, or you could post something funny or informative for your audience.
The goal is to be engaging, and being solely promotional won't accomplish that. Think about linking to stories your customers would want to read or sharing anecdotes that build a personal connection to your business.
On Yelp especially, and on other platforms where appropriate, it's important to address comments about your business. If someone says something nice, thank them. If there's a less kind comment, address it. Don't be defensive. Apologize and try to make things right for the customer.
Every company has off days, and maybe you'll come across customers in a bad mood. If you respond to negativity with positivity (and maybe even an incentive for the person to come back) you will show other potential visitors that you care.
You have to be diligent
If you want to build a following on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, you need to post regularly. That could be once or twice a day or even a little more if you build up an audience that looks for what you share.
When it comes to answering questions and responding to complaints, you need to be as timely as possible. To make this happen, you may want to get alerts on your phone or have an employee monitor your accounts.
It's important to remember that many potential customers will first interact with or experience your brand through social media. That makes it very important to be sure you not only put your best foot forward but are as welcoming as possible.
This all sounds a bit daunting, but really, after the initial setup, it can be accomplished in a few minutes a day. You don't need to put in a lot of time to have the right social media presence; you just need to make sure you actively stay on top of things.