by Marissa Porcaro, PBA Director of Marketing and Communications

Our world has become extremely fast paced. With high speed internet at your fingertips in the form of tablets, smartphones, and laptops, we are constantly on the hunt for information- and we’re not willing to wait. It seems people are as impatient as ever when it comes to obtaining new information. With technology shooting forward, the last thing you want as a small business is to be left behind. It’s important to realize that having a frequent online presence is crucial for small growing businesses. The internet, and most importantly social media, have become a platform in which to advertise and spread knowledge.

As a small business, using free advertising tools such as Facebook and Twitter have become an integral part of daily operations. With millions of users engaging in social media, establishing yourself in that demographic can tremendously impact your business in a positive way.

Engage Your Audience

Create a Facebook page for your business. Be sure business hours/ days of operation are clear and correct. Use incentives to engage with current and potential customers. Post clear, visually appealing photos as well as informational content to keep your followers interested. Be aware that your business is reflected in everything you post, so keep your posts professional and interesting so as to not isolate potential clients. Defer from posting anything too personal, political, or otherwise offensive. The last thing you want to do is drive people away from your business page.

There are no real filters when it comes to social media. In the world of the internet, there are few rules and sometimes it may be easy to get carried away and post without thinking of the consequences. As a business you must maintain a level of professionalism and refrain from posting anything that will have a negative impact on your business. Social media outlets like Twitter are great for blasting out quick, engaging messages. Inform your customers of a change in hours, discounts, or simply keep in touch with clients in shorts messages.

You must also remember to not post too much or too often about yourself. People want to be entertained, and if you only engage in social media to talk about yourself your followers will tune you out. The solution is to alternate between posts about you/your business with small blurbs about current events/ daily happenings. Find a good balance. Start a conversation with your followers. Ask open ended questions so that readers are more likely to respond.

Networking is Essential

Get to know your community through social media.  Do you have a favorite local business? Reach out to them, introduce yourself and show your support. Get to know the people whose business you’d like to have. Most of them will be appreciative of your support and will reciprocate. Networking is the fastest way to gain a solid following of potential clients. You’d be surprised how many people you can reach by simply making someone aware you exist. And, networking is easier than you think. You can simply re-tweet a message from another local business, answer a question from a client, or send a short greeting to someone. Fellow social media users love interacting and will most likely engage with you.

Timing is Everything

When taking the time to post about your business, especially on social media sites like Facebook, timing is everything. Use tools such as Facebook marketing to keep track of viewer reach and times of the day your page is the most active. For example, updating your status with important information at 7:00 am. on a weekday is probably not the best idea. At that time of the morning, most people are rushing to get ready for work, or are in the middle of their commute to the office. Posting the same message at 8:00 or 8:30 am, however, may be more beneficial. Typically at that time, people will be sitting down with coffee, getting ready to start their day, and will check their social media sites before diving into their work.

Stay Ahead of the Trends

Social media is a great tool for trend spotting. It can also serve as a working portfolio. Are you proud of your work? Take a good quality photo and post it to Facebook or Instagram. Learn to use hashtags properly for even more viewer reach. Show your followers what you can do. Did you find a great article on the next best thing in the industry? Share it with your followers and show them how resourceful you are in staying current with the latest fashion trends. Just like our world today is fast paced, the beauty industry move in light years. Don’t get left behind.

The negative side of social media

Unfortunately, engaging in social media has a dark side. Making personal information public on the internet can be a double-edged sword. As a business, it’s important to realize that you can’t keep 100% of people happy all the time. If for any reason, a client isn’t happy with your work, there is nothing stopping them from taking to social media to express their frustration. That can range from an angry email to a very public and negative rant on Facebook or Twitter. The key to diffusing situations like this is to handle each case gracefully and professionally. You don’t have the luxury of remaining anonymous in these situations, so think before you respond, if you choose to respond at all. In these cases, it’s best to choose your battles carefully. This can’t be stressed enough: Once you post something online, it’s there forever and nearly impossible to delete. Screen grabs are only a button away, and attempting damage control after a public confrontation is much worse than one negative review.  Counteract potential harm to your business by staying positive. Strive to provide the best service possible, and ask your clients to share their good experiences on review sites like Yelp! or Facebook. Most of your clients will be more than happy to help you out.

For some, engaging is social media has become second nature. For others, it takes some effort. But the outcome remains the same: Being active and having a strong online presence does wonders for your business. The key is to utilize it properly, evolve with it, and learn from it. Remember that with social media, your company page is a reflection of you as a professional. Don’t alienate potential clients. Don’t be offensive and always think of the consequences if you decide to tackle a controversial topic. Remember that many of those taboo topics can be freely shared on your personal page without affecting your business. There’s a time and a place for everything, and social media sites can hurt as much as they can help your business when misused. Stay positive and exercise care when representing your business on social media.

About the Author

Marissa Porcaro is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Professional Beauty Association (PBA). PBA advances the professional beauty industry by providing our members with education, charitable outreach, government advocacy, events and more. PBA is the largest organization of salon professionals with members representing salons and spas, distributors, manufacturers and beauty professionals/NCA. Visit probeauty.org or call 800.468.2274 (480.281.0424) for more information.