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Check out the transcript of TM’s conversation with Matt McGee.

Social media has become a hot topic in the search industry over the past year. Several businesses are experimenting with social media, yet there are still reservations about diving into this unknown territory. Will social media really produce results? To answer this question, we asked Matt McGee, an independent online marketing consultant, to share his thoughts about social media and its affects on small businesses.

Matt McGeeMatt McGee became involved with SEO and social media to meet the demands of his clients. He explained how during the 90’s he was involved in website design and development, when Yahoo!, Excite and Lycos were very popular and his clients became interested in knowing how people could actually visit their sites.

“It’s nice to have a professionally done website, but it doesn’t serve any purpose if people aren’t coming to visit it,” states McGee.

Recently, McGee has also developed Hyperlocalblogger, which is a blog targeted to help small businesses do some marketing online and is also Assignment Editor at Search Engine Land.

Why has Social Media become such a HOT topic in the search industry?

McGee sates that the reason people are discussing social media right now is because “it is what people are doing.” A recent Forrester survey claims that more than 4 out of 5 adults are active in social media in some way at least once a month. That is a hard number to ignore, which is why businesses began asking themselves how they could get involved in this.

Companies may be interested in developing a social media campaign, but are concerned about whether it can actually produce results and be an affective marketing tool. So how should a small business get involved in social media? There is not a template or secret formula to follow, that guarantees success for all types of business, however, Matt McGee does help shed some light on this issue and offers his advice for small businesses who are considering a social media marketing campaign.

Definition of a Small Business

Since the term small business is pretty broad it becomes difficult to generalize what social media strategies work for all types. A small business can range from someone that works out of their home to someone that might have 10, 15, 20 or 100 employees. The more localized companies seem to have the greatest success with social media since they are connecting with local customers in their area. The larger businesses have a more difficult time achieving that personal connection with their consumers.

“What works for a one-man band may not work for larger small business,” states McGee.

Where are your customers?

CustomersFind out where your customers and how you can best reach them. If you do not think your customers are using social media on a regular basis, then this might not be something worth investing in. However, if you know your customers are active in social media then it is essential for your business to determine which social media channels they are using to try and capture that audience.

“If your customers are on Facebook, then that’s where you need to be. If your customers are on Twitter then that’s where you need to be,” states McGee.

Social Media Plan & Goals

The most common mistake businesses make when experimenting with social media for the first time is not establishing a specific plan and goals that should be achieved by using social media.

It is essential for businesses to establish a plan before they launch a social media campaign to make sure they are reaching out to the right people and sending the right message. The problem with not setting up a plan is that most businesses tend to use it as more of a sales channel or they only use it as merely a social tool to connect with friends and family. In order to enhance your businesses’ chance of success with social media, it is important to create a balance between being social and trying to promote your business.

“Knowing how to balance the personal side verses the business side can make a big difference in your success,” states McGee, “There needs to be more education on what the right balance is.”

Social Media Benefits for Small Business

As stated previously McGee created HyperlocalBlogger to help local businesses connect with their consumers. The intent of Hyperlocalblogger is to allow businesses “to write about stuff that traditional media usually ignores.”

“Hyperlocal blogging is a great way to show off your knowledge of your area,” states McGee. “There are a lot of benefits for a local business to get involved in social media because you can have these conversations with people that are directly in your area, which is a great opportunity to gain visibility, name recognition and brand recognition,” states McGee.

McGee gave an example of how social media results can create an impact. His wife is a real estate that uses Facebook to make local connections with other real estate agents and potential clients. He’s advised her to take down the Facebook quizzes  because he thinks she is actually going to turn away potential clients, however, it seems to be working for her. McGee believes that her method of utilizing Facebook has allowed people to see her personality and connect with her on personal level.

“There is a lot of value in having an open mind and being somewhat experimental in seeing what is going to work for the situation you are in,” states McGee.

Investing in the way you use social media is your own personal preference. It depends on how you want others to perceive you on the social media channels. If you feel like showing more of your personality can benefit your business, then maybe this is the direction you should go. There are not any set guidelines as to how achieve the best results.

McGee believes Twitter offers the best opportunity for small businesses because Twitter seemed to  immediately recognize the business potential for their product. McGee believes Twitter is the way of the future and that businesses should take advantage of it.

“It provides an opportunity, like all social media channels, to create a personal connection and a human element that will resonate with people and help your business improve its visibility,” states McGee.

What does this mean for your business?

When it comes down to determining whether a social media campaign is right for your business, it is necessary, just like any other marketing strategy, to develop a plan and a set of goals you wish to achieve. Find out where your target consumers are and determine if they actually use social media on a regular basis and which social media outlet(s) they utilize the most.

The main objective with social media is to create a personal connection with people in your network and create visibility for your company. It is important to remember that fact so that your business does not come across as “selling” information.

Since there is not a template on how all businesses should use social media, the best advice Matt could offer was to learn and research as much as you can about social media before you dive head first into the unknown.

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