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Social media can be huge for startups and small businesses

Date posted:  1/6/16 06:15:00 AM Businesses should greatly consider their presence on social media.

There are few better ways to lure potential clients than through social media platforms, according to Tori Hoffman, social media strategist at Potratz, an automobile marketing company.

"Americans spend one out of every seven minutes on social media, providing a huge opportunity for small business owners to build a relationship with fans by sharing relevant content and interacting by commenting and liking fans' comments," Hoffman told CIO. "The more a user interacts with a page, the more likely their friends are to see it, increasing awareness."

But choosing the right path can be difficult for many startups and small businesses. Along with social media, business owners can spread the word of their companies through blogging and email marketing campaigns.

Mike Volpe, CMO of the inbound marketing firm HubSpot, told CIO there are plenty of solid options, but he recommends social media for various reasons.

"If your small business isn't using social media, it's time to start," Volpe said. "Social media produces almost double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing or direct mail."

With a slew of social media outlets - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. - it can be hard to pick the right platform for a particular company. If a business is very visual, Instagram might be a great fit. If a company is a bit more news-oriented, Twitter might do the trick. It all depends on the company and what it has to offer.

Mindy McCarthy, owner of MinMac, told CIO her favorite place to market her handmade jewelry is on Instagram.

"It's the queen of virtual markets," she said. "Potential customers can scroll through your collection of pictures and see who they're supporting."

McCarthy believes clients who engage with her Instagram page make a deeper connection than a normal business-to-consumer interaction.

Volpe recommended doing some research and looking at what kind of social media platform industry leaders are using.

"Once you've set up an account, start connecting sharing your original content, joining discussions and engaging with the community," Volpe said. "Keep your social efforts frequent, but above all, relevant and helpful to your audience."

Four types of posts
Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick co-wrote "The Art of Social Media," a guide to storytelling that dives into creating content that engages audiences through digital platforms.

The pair stated there are four different divisions for content that small business owners need to recognize: service or assistance; news or basic information; analysis of the news; and entertainment, according to the Financial Post.

If a business can serve fresh content featuring one of these forms, it's likely to grow its social media platform, which could do wonders for a company. Still, some business owners are worried about turning away customers if they post too much. A good rule of thumb is to offer enough value to readers and followers that they aren't turned off by an occasional promotion or commercial pitch, Kawasaki told the Post.

Generating content of interest
The main goal for most people - businesses included - on social media is to create posts that resonate with friends and followers. If a post is shared, liked or favorited, it means the content was relevant to a large number of people. And if content is shared, a greater number of potential clients will be able to look at a company's page.

USA Today revealed a few tips for businesses getting into social media: use an active voice, be succinct, ask questions, post links and encourage conversation.

Asking questions and encouraging conversations can help boost interaction between a business and a client. Other social media users will be impressed if a company promptly responds to questions and concerns, which could lead to future clients.