Social media strategy is good for businesses

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> By Libby Durst
> MSU Ag Communications
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> STARKVILLE — Turn on the lights, ready the store and post an online update. Business owners are incorporating social media into their daily routines, and customers like it.
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> Ellen Graves, social media strategist for the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said using online platforms allows entrepreneurs to join the conversation about their businesses.
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> “People are talking about your business, and having a social media presence keeps you informed about what they are saying,” Graves said. “With social media, you have an instant connection with people that is free to use, and you can control your messages and guide the conversation.”
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> Graves said a well-managed social media account builds a sense of community with repeat visitors and provides a positive experience for new customers.
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> “It makes people excited about your business and gives them an easy way to find information,” Graves said. “That is why it is so important to have a daily presence and keep the account updated with store hours, location and website information.”
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> Graves suggested scheduling social media time into the daily routine and allowing up to three people to share responsibilities for the account.
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> “Something is more likely to get posted when you have multiple people working on the account, and you don’t have to worry about losing access to the account if one person forgets the password or doesn’t come to work that day,” Graves said.
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> Account managers should carefully consider all posts before making them public. Focus on the quality and relevance of the posts and not the quantity of posts.
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> “You shouldn’t post something just to be posting,” Graves said. “You need to balance informational posts and promotional posts with fun posts, but always keep your content in line with what your business does.”
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> Business owners should keep their social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others — separate. Linking the business’s social media accounts seems convenient but is ineffective, she said.
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> “It is common to have more than three posts in a day on Twitter, but not on Facebook,” Graves said. “Posting too many times can clog up a person’s newsfeed and frustrate them. You need to tailor your content for each platform, too. For example, certain content might work for a Facebook post but not a tweet.”
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> Responding to both positive and negative posts is another aspect of a well-managed account. Graves suggested retweeting, liking and saying thank you for positive comments.
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> Do not ignore negative comments.
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> “If someone makes a negative comment, you should make a positive comment without engaging in the argument,” Graves said. “You can apologize for the problem, thank the person for his or her honesty and concern, and offer to make it better. However, if a user’s posts become inappropriate or vulgar, you may have to block that individual.”
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> Comments and retweets are a good indicator of the number of people interacting with the business’s social media page, and most social media platforms offer statistics that can help determine the effectiveness of the social media account.
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> Both Facebook and Twitter have the option to view statistics; however, the Facebook account must be established as a page and not a profile when the account is created. A Facebook page is designed to be used by businesses, while a profile is typically reserved for personal use.
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> “When your business has a Facebook page, you can actually get the number of people who have visited the page, shared a post and viewed a post,” Graves said. “This is helpful for businesses to measure their reach and test the effectiveness of their social media strategies.”
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> Paula Brown of Oxford, Mississippi, has experienced the vast reach of Facebook through her family business’s Facebook page. The Brown Family Dairy page gained over 2,000 likes in one year.
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> Brown said she started the page after a friend suggested it would spread the word about her family’s dairy products. Although she did not have much Facebook experience, she gave it a try.
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> “I really love taking pictures for Facebook,” Brown said. “Then, I realized that people love seeing the farm through the pictures I post, especially those who can’t make it out here themselves.”
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> Brown said the page has allowed her to interact with customers and build a personal connection with them.
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> “I have gotten to know a lot of people,” Brown said. “People can ask questions and see what it’s like on the farm. They get to see our family working together.”
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> Like Graves, Brown said she believes the quality of posts is more important than the quantity of posts.
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> “I am busy with the cows most of the time, but I try to post as much as I can with quality posts,” Brown said. “I may not get to post every day, but when I do, it is usually a special picture that gets a good response. I don’t want to overload people.”
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> Brown recommended using creativity and good timing to gain interest in a business’s social media account.
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> “I try to post when I think people will be on Facebook,” Brown said. “I try to have fun with the page and get people involved. I like to let people suggest names for calves and guess if a cow will have a boy or girl. We celebrate holidays and let people vote on their favorite picture.”
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> Brown said the challenges of posting only using her smartphone are worth the effort.
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> “When you are passionate about your business, it shows on your page,” Brown said.
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