This installment of Social Media Marketing for Small Business is a list of 10 tasks and routines for a small business owner to use, in order to effectively apply a social media marketing strategy.

In part 1 we summarized 3 applications – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – and your homework was to simply register with the services and become a good listener. By now, you should have gotten an idea of how these tools are being applied by larger organizations, and hopefully have participated as well.

Our next step is to start participating and contributing for our own purposes, in an effort to build an active community.

If you are reasonably well-versed with technology and on-line interfaces, then setting up and designing your accounts should not be too difficult. Each application has a wealth of FAQs, help pages and user-forums that will provide you with guidance if you get stuck. For more professional quality work, such as applying your corporate logo, or designing a professional background image for your YouTube Channel, having a media-professional assist you is highly recommended.

Ten steps and recommendations to launching your small business social media strategy:

1.    INVITE EVERYONE, LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED
After you’ve created your accounts, go through all your address books and mailing lists, both personal and professional and merge them into a targeted list for up-load. Use the “invite friends” wizards that are built into most social media platforms, to automatically search for and be-friend or follow people you already know. This will build your initial social communities and form the beginnings of a critical mass. The more people you can add, the better, so don’t be shy.

2.    PUBLISH NEWS AND RELEVANT INFORMATION
Share content on a routine base. For Facebook – we recommend every other day, twitter – 3 or more messages daily and for YouTube – a short video once a week. This is like going to the gym to lose weight. You want to keep the momentum going, keep yourself topical and encourage the growth of your community through value-added habits.

3.    CONTENT IS KING
So what should you be publishing? A basic strategy is to simply publish news stories, web resources and tools that may be of interest to your social community, as well as being relevant to your brand and corporate message. Third-party content – stories from the local paper for example – is a good start. Ideally though, you want to create ORIGINAL content, and then use your social networks to publish announcements and promote web-traffic towards that content. For example, if you created a YouTube video, you would then post that video to your Facebook page, and send out a series of tweets, inviting people to go watch the video.

4.    BE SOCIABLE
Engage other users and pages. Suppliers, trade organizations and other corporate allies of yours are all great starting places to stick your name and brand. By commenting on other pages and posts, you generate additional entry points and opportunities to expose yourself. This is the bumper-sticker of the Internet.

5.    ACKNOWLEDGE ACTIVITY
NEVER ignore, miss or blow-off an attempt at communication, a question or a thank-you. When members of your social community interact with your page, be sure to publicly acknowledge their participation. A quick reply-comment will bump that post to the top of the news feeds, and encourage future engagement.

6.    THE REAL WORLD STILL EXISTS
A common criticism of social media is that culturally we are living inside our computers, isolated from the “real world”. Social media is just the opposite. These interactive tools serve to PROMOTE, ENCOURAGE and SHARE our off-line lives. Events are planned and promoted via Facebook, then de-briefed and re-lived through photos, videos and editorials. As a business, if you are hosting or sponsoring an event, be sure to use these tools to bring further relevance, participation and exposure to your involvement for maximum return.

7.    ADD LINKS TO YOUR WEBSITE
Think of your social networks as dynamic mailing lists. By letting visitors to your website know that you have a social media community and making those communities as accessible as possible, you encourage further growth. Adding social media links to your website’s front page, will allow visitors to quickly and easily connect with your community, leading to future dialogue, interaction and communication.

8.    TWITTER
Despite what you may have been reading, Twitter is NOT only for people announcing their breakfast menu. It is an effective tool for announcing product launches, services you’ve added to your company’s offerings and to promote content within your network that you’d like people to read or watch. But first you need to build an audience. Use a tool like www.hootsuite.com, to track keywords relevant to your business, organize relevant accounts you are monitoring, and to see who’s following you back. Look for discussions relevant to your brand and engage others by following them, re-tweeting their messages and studying what is being said by others. The more you follow and participate, the more you are followed back. The more followers you have, the greater an impact you will have when those vital sales messages are transmitted.

9.    BE POSITIVE, CONVERSATIONAL, AND PERSONABLE, LEAVING THE DOORS WIDE OPEN

Control of message and control of distribution is a notion that marketing departments need to let go of. In social media marketing for small business, not everything that is being said or done as it relates to your brand can be harnessed and controlled, nor should you be trying to. Conversations and discussions about your business ARE going to happen, and yes we want to encourage those conversations. Setting up road-blocks and limitations will only hinder the very nature of how social media marketing helps your business increase its client-base. Allow content sharing on your Facebook Page. Be casual and personable with the language and content you choose to post. Encourage others to contribute content to your strategy.

10.    CALL TO ACTION – ASK QUESTIONS, THROW CONTESTS, INVITE ACTIVITY
A social media marketing strategy is only as strong as the activity and traffic flow its profiles generate. The more activity and interest generated, the more brand awareness and impressions your business will gain. So how do we accomplish this? Include a call to action in your post. This may be as simple as instructing readers to visit a specific page on your website, to more elaborate activities, such as throwing contests and using incentives to encourage public contribution of content. The more others participate in your page, the more third-party exposure you will gain.