Alan from @popupbusiness: When starting a business it is critical to start talking to your customers immediately. In this guest blog posting we are lucky to have Daniel Owens from communications specialists @orangejuicePR talking about how to use social media to engage your customers and telling us about a competition you can enter.
Starting up in business is a daunting prospect. We know, we did it ourselves not so long ago.
In a competitive marketplace it's more important than ever to stand out from the crowd and let people know you exist. The days of just opening up and letting the crowds flock to your door are long gone, it's up to the business to get creative and draw in the customers.
One particularly effective way of doing this is to harness the limitless power of social media. Like it or lump it, social networks are a huge part of people's lives these days. You may not want to use Facebook on a personal basis to tell the world what you got up to on Saturday, and you perhaps aren't keen on taking to Twitter to let your followers know what your cat had for tea, but there's really no excuse for shunning social media in the corporate world.
It's free and it works. What's not to like?
Whatever your business, you should have a Twitter account. It's a fantastic way to network and grow your audience. You can use it to follow your suppliers, target your markets, keep tabs on competitors and get new ideas to help grow your business.
Position yourself as the go-to expert in your industry
More importantly than anything, it allows you to establish and cultivate relationships with the people that matter most, your customers. Never before has it been so easy to chat to your customers, any time of the day, no matter where you (or indeed they) are.
Humans are pretty simple creatures really. Be nice, be friendly and people are more likely to like you. Any buy from you.
Once you've set up your Twitter account and got yourself a decent following (200 or so is easily done) you will have the chance to establish these relationships, getting to know your customers and forming a potentially long-lasting bond.
Tweet about your industry, position yourself as the go-to expert - but remain humble throughout. Nobody knows everything, but prove that when it comes to your particular industry, you know your onions (very useful if you happen to be a greengrocer).
Use the tools at your disposal to make your product look the best it possibly can. That may be through pictures (set up an Instagram account to add cool filters to your images) or video (Twitter's own Vine app is a great way of using six-second clips to advertise yourself). Pinterest is a wonderful community for creative and design types while LinkedIn is an essential network in the business world.
Content is king! Get them interested and once you've got their attention, get involved.
Whatever apps/networks you decide to use, remember the age-old mantra, content is king. make sure your tweets and updates are interesting. There's a lot of needless 'noise' on social media and people will often just flick through timelines paying scant regard to what's before them. Make your content stand out, make it leap off the page.
Get them interested and once you've got their attention, get involved. Follow those who follow you if you feel they can add something to your business. Talk to them, welcome them, make them feel valued. Establish that early relationship and build on it, you'll be amazed how that can pay dividend in the long term.
As you've probably guessed, we love social media. We think it's the single biggest change in the way companies and customers interact in a generation and we are now rewarding those firms who have done more than most to embrace it and use it to grow their business.
Enter your business is the Citrus Social Media Awards
Here at @OrangeJuicePR, we have teamed up with our friends from @ZestComms to launch the Citrus Social Media Awards (see what we did there?) - championing innovation and success among small businesses who are big on social media.
It's a national awards scheme and are looking forward to hearing some inspiring tales of how Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ etc has helped revolutionise small firms from across the UK.
We've got a big night planned for the awards themselves. You should be a part of it.
Follow us on twitter @socialmediaawds and check out www.citrussocialmediaawards.com for details of how to enter.