As of June of 2014, Facebook reported that over 30 million small businesses across the U.S. now use their platform to reach and engage customers – up to 1.23 billion of them worldwide. Advertising through Facebook and other social media sites demands a budget (e.g. staff time to update and maintain as well as for paid advertising if desired), but creating an account, following, sharing with others, and engaging with an audience is free. Starting a social media presence, however, or even knowing where to begin is a daunting task for many business owners. Local chambers of commerce, marketing firms, and business development groups are helping businesses across the nation use these sites as a marketing tool which can turn followers, likes, tweets, shares, and posts into sales.
Michelle Rasmussen is the Business Services Director for Michigan Works! in west central Michigan, a unified workforce development system active throughout the state. Using her background in marketing, public relations, and communications, Rasmussen is helping small businesses get ahead of new marketing by getting online with social media, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. Working with local businesses and marketing groups, she has hosted formal and informal classes and workshops in four of West Central’s five counties, with Baldwin, Michigan in Lake County, next on the list for June 23. These areas in west Michigan are largely rural, and reaching out through social media helps businesses cast a wider net and gain exposure to new markets.
“Once you get it set up properly, it really doesn’t take much to communicate with your audience, share your information and share your products,” said Rasmussen. The classes and workshops help to familiarize business owners with sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and show them how to set up pages and use them most effectively as a marketing tool. “You’re getting left behind if you’re not involved in some form in the social media world,” Rasmussen tells business owners. “It’s one spoke in the wheel of all of the different ways to market a business or service, but I definitely think it’s a huge component to any business marketing strategy.”
Using social media as a marketing tool is different than using it to stay in touch with friends and family. Pictures and videos garner more attention and engagement than posts alone, and visuals allow businesses to showcase products, services, special deals, and other offers. Keeping relatively short, regular content with pictures and videos helps users stay in touch with the business and keep current. Different social sites attract different demographics as well, so it is important for each business to consider their target market before starting a profile.
Michigan Works! and the Business Development Association of Lake County invite businesses to come “test the waters” and learn more about social media promotions in Baldwin, Michigan on June 23 at the Michigan Works! West Central building and visit http://www.michworkswc.org/. To learn more about opportunities in your area and broadband development across the nation, stay in touch with http://connectmycommunity.org.
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