With increased numbers of social media users, small businesses have more opportunities for connecting with the public than ever before. Additionally, many users have access to high speed internet service; therefore, staying on top of the competition is easier with a social media presence. Using online groups such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is a great way for a business with budget restrictions to reach out to the community without spending more than it should. Here are six basic tips for small businesses to follow as they become involved with social media.

Start Immediately If Not Sooner
First, a small business should immediately create an online presence instead of waiting for several months. Doing this immediately will attract new customers and create conversation among interested, potential customers. In addition, having a social media circle will greatly help when the business expands and begins marketing through email. This will also give the business itself the ability to see what competitors are doing in their community and what the trend is within their business sector.

Engage Locally
Secondly, it is vital to work closely within one’s own community. This is especially important for virtual businesses. Large businesses may be able to create inroads throughout the state, region or even nation; however, small businesses must concentrate on their locale to gather a viable customer base. As local consumers notice a new business, they will begin to tell their friends, family and coworkers who will then be able to search for it online.

Connect to Other Pros
Thirdly, a great way to create a consumer base even faster is to reach out to other area businesses. This will show that the intent of the business is to reach out to the community and to build a close-knit, friendly group. These businesses will then do the same in return by spotlighting the small business on their website or social media page. This especially applies to those who are making use of another’s information. Giving credit to the originator or author is always the best option.

Cover All Platforms
Fourthly, a small business should become involved in as many social media networks as it feasibly can. Since a large number of people have access to high speed internet service, they can easily check multiple sites quickly. Creating business pages on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter will make the business more accessible and visible in the virtual community. Many social groups have search engines that will allow similar businesses to find each other and interact together.

Do… Not… Spam
Fifthly, businesses should refrain from using anything that sounds like spam. The biggest culprit here is automated replies. There are a number of applications online that can create automated replies to personal comments or messages. However, most of them produce messages that sound positively fake or that misinterpret the original message. Seeing these sorts of replies on a business’s social media page is an immediate deterrent to potential clients.

All consumers respond more positively to personalized messages and replies. Of course, there are times when some automation is perfectly acceptable. For example, some businesses choose to schedule updates to their pages even when they are not online themselves. Others post RSS feeds from one of their sites to another site.

Separate Business and Pleasure
Sixthly, a business’s social media page should be completely separate from the owner’s personal page. While many beginners believe that their business will grow even more quickly if they link with their personal friends first, new clients will distrust the professionalism of the business. A business should be marketed as such if it is expected to grow.

These are six of the best ways to create a strong business presence by using social media. Most consumers begin their search for a particular business online now that high speed internet service is available in the majority of areas across the country. A small business should never underestimate the power of virtual networking as they engage with its community.

Note: Photo courtesy of gavinjllewellyn via FlickR Creative Commons.