A Small Biz Intro to Social Media

Inquisitive entrepreneurs and small business owners can find inspiring insights and common sense answers from two industry pros now on MainStreet.

Each week Dani Babb, a small business expert and the dean of Andrew Jackson University's College of Business in Hoover, Ala., and John Rutledge, the chairman of the private equity investment firm Rutledge Capital, offer their advice to scores of entrepreneurs and small business owners. They are also frequent commentators on Fox Business News.

This week they respond to Amy from Michigan's question about small business marketing.

Amy: How can I use social networking effectively to help market my online business?

Babb and Rutledge: Amy, this is a great question! There are a ton of social networking sites, let’s look at a few of the most common.

LinkedIn allows you to sort through professional contacts by company. Let the search options in the application do the heavy lifting and link you with people you’ve worked with in the past. From there, you can ask for connections. Update your profile often, and accept requests. It is common to give recommendations and it is acceptable to ask for them. This activity helps build your LinkedIn credibility. Let everyone know about your new business, too! It should be listed as a business and you should make notes about it in your profile.

Facebook popped up after LinkedIn and was marketed to college students to stay in touch with quick updates on what they were doing. It is a way to find friends of friends, and is now a popular tool for professionals and businesses, too. You should set up a profile here and update it often; check your Facebook mail and requests!

One of the most recent viral tools is Twitter. Twitter requires that you keep your “tweets,” or messages, down to 140 characters. This is micro blogging, or social networking in short sound bites. Follow friends and family first to get a network growing, and you can use friend adding tools like Twitter FriendAdder, to find potential customers.

One way to market your business is to create a message that goes out as a DM, or direct message, to all new followers. One example for you, Amy, might be, “Thanks for following me! Please check out my new web site at (Insert your link here) and let me know what you think!” (You can do this in advance through sites like TweetLater.)

Be sure you re-tweet information that others post, as they will do the same for you. You can post links to interesting articles or sites. The interesting thing about Twitter is that most professionals tweet not only about their business but also about what they might be doing this weekend. This is a good way to make a human connection.