Social media is here to stay, folks, and it’s now considered to be a vital part of business marketing. Inbound marketing has a much higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing, and 74% of marketers surveyed for HubSpot’s 2013 State Of Inbound Marketing Report discussed that Facebook was very important to their lead generation strategy. But while these networks are noted for their importance, how does a small business owner get started when nobody knows who they are?

Social media presence
photo credit: mkhmarketing

When you have no digital footprint online whatsoever, using social media might feel like talking to a wall. Trust me, it isn’t. Potential customers will, at some point, want to Google you to find out more about where you are on Twitter and Instagram, and if you get started creating those accounts now, you can building a pretty solid following using these steps to guide you along the way.

1. Create and share good content.

You can’t just spam your Twitter feed with pictures of cats in ties or nonstop tweets advertising all of the sales you’re holding. You need informative content and the best place to put it is on a blog. B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than companies that don’t. Additionally, 82% of marketers that blog daily reported finding a customer through the blog, while only 57% of marketers that blog monthly could say the same thing.

The more you write, and write well on topics your customer base is interested in and you’ve got plenty of expertise on, the more content you have to share which can best be done on the social platforms you create accounts on. Build it and they will come – but don’t be offended if it takes some time to truly establish your following.

2. Don’t balk at any opportunity to talk.

There are a lot of small-time Twitter handles that host tweet chats which are essentially open talks built around a common hashtag wherein users can respond to with their own replies, using the hashtag to ensure that the tweet gets noticed by the host of the tweet chat. These chats are a great way to network and find new customers, but a lot of business owners refuse to take part if they feel like the audience interacting or listening is too small. It doesn’t matter how many followers the chat’s host has, if they let you speak, take advantage of that opportunity.

Tweet chats typically run for about an hour, and they are a great way to connect with other professionals in your industry and beyond.

3. Remember quality, not quantity.

You want to establish a presence and you want it to be the kind of presence that potential customers and fans alike keep coming for more with. Social and inbound marketing are both based on long-term results. Don’t focus strictly on how many followers you have or the amount of posts you churn out daily. High numbers look impressive, but they don’t mean your fan base is engaging with you either.

Start building your social strategy around the type of content you’d like to see. As you begin to gain followers, tweak your strategy to accommodate the type of posts they respond to and interact with.

4. Plug your social presence everywhere you can.

You’d be surprised how many followers you can get just by including a couple of links and images in your email signature or in your profile bio! When Google+ launched, I knew I needed to build a following on the site, but people were still scrambling to figure out how Google+ would impact social media, and I didn’t have much advice to go off. So I put a Google+ link in everything I could, and regularly updated the account, like I would with Twitter or Facebook.

A big part of social marketing is simply making people aware that you’re on these sites. It took awhile but, in the long run, the process was well worth the effort – Google+ averages more visits per month than Facebook, and I’m very happy to report people interact with my posts.

Above all, be patient. Don’t rush anything. Make yourself heard by interacting with other people and through good content. Soon enough you’ll have one follower, then another, and then another. Users will follow active profiles that enrich their lives in some way, be it through humor, companionship, or (in the case of most businesses) useful information.

Social media success doesn’t arrive overnight, but if you stick to a solid content strategy, you will eventually have an engaged group of followers, some of which may even become new customers!