WSJ SurveySmall business owners – six out of 10 – believe social media channels are valuable to their company’s growth and LinkedIn tops the list. In a recent survey of 385 small business owners conducted by The Wall Street Journal and Vistage International, 41 percent cited LinkedIn as potentially beneficial to their company. Only three percent thought Twitter offered the most potential. The other two social media networks that small business owners consider useful to the growth of their companies are YouTube, chosen by 16 percent of respondents, and Facebook cited by 14 percent.

When it comes to helping small business, Twitter’s Achilles’ heel may be its 140 characters, which make it difficult to convey a company’s messages, the WSJ points out.  Other small business owners depend on strong images to set them apart and Twitter is not effective in supporting visuals. Some companies find that Twitter serves them best as a surveillance tool to keep on top of market developments.

Social media valuable but time for it is limited

While small businesses believe in the value of social media, they have limited time and money to figure out the best ways to leverage it. Just four in 10 business owners surveyed reported that they have employees dedicated to social media campaigns. Nearly half of them spend between one and five hours each week on social media and one third spend no time at all.

Be effective on your social media channels

Back in December, I wrote about how to be effective on social media, whatever channel you employ. Here are the suggestions again, with some additional input:

Invest the time and energy: Posting something about your product on Facebook once a week is not going to build an engagement with your customers. Post several times a week.

Aim to engage with entertaining, educational and informative content:

  • Share an article (as I am doing) or direct your followers to a blog post you find useful
  • Comment on a news story and get people talking
  • Ask for input on a product or service
  • Post a funny photo or a thought-provoking quote

Be yourself: Show who you are and what you value. Your customers want to talk to a real person. Share your experiences, your humor and your insights.

Respond: If someone ask a question or posts a comment, respond as quickly as possible either in comment or via a direct message.

Expand your follower base: Look for people who clearly have an interest in your industry. They can be followers of your followers or industry authorities. Try to connect with them through a direct message and see if you can engage them to follow you and of course follow them in turn.

Social media works because people choose to connect with you. They invest their time and attention by choice, which is far more meaningful than passively accepting information you send them.  Choose your channel based on the needs of your business and the way your customers and prospects like to engage and get involved for the long term.