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Wyoming Business Tips for Oct. 16-22

October 7, 2016

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Nicholas Giraldo, WSBDC market researcher

“Do I need social media? And what social media platform should I be on?” Tracy, Casper

Let’s start by looking back at your marketing plan. The plan lays out who you’re trying to reach, where they are and what you want them to do. If your target customers are hanging out on social media, then social media is the place to go.

Facebook had 226 million monthly active users in North America at the beginning of 2016; Twitter has 66 million monthly active users in the U.S. so far this year; Instagram had 77 million active users in 2015; and, last year, Pinterest surpassed 100 million monthly active users. So, yes, in order to reach the maximum amount of people easily and effectively, your business should be on social media.

As a small-business owner, you can’t do everything and, unfortunately, deciding which social media platform to leverage is no simple answer. It depends on your customers, your product/service and your communication style.

The real question to ask is: What do we want your target customer to do? We want them to buy your product and, hopefully, spread the word about your business. That is an oversimplification, yes, but it also is counter to how digital customers (your target market who is active on social media) believe they are behaving.

Digital consumers see themselves as having freedom of choice. They have a lot of power. Search engines, in order to provide the most efficient results, follow the wisdom of the crowd and rank websites based on what users find useful and informative. Social media platforms operate the same way. Facebook, for example, follows the crowd and makes recommendations based on the behaviors and preferences of not only individual users, but those of their network of friends.

Here are some ways to optimize your social media profiles for search engines:

-- Have a complete “About” section. This includes the basics of your business, such as who you are (name of business and names of business owners), where you’re located and what you do. Also vital is a short and descriptive value proposition explaining why visitors should pay attention to your business, and an enticing call to action encouraging visitors to visit the store or website.

By shoring up your social media profile (or profiles) with consistent and relevant business information, search engines can create an accurate digital profile of your business. The more complete your profile, the better search engines can recall it and align it with the searches of your consumers.

-- Customer reviews. Reviews are useful because they take the guesswork out of making a purchasing choice. These positive and shared experiences customers have with a brand provide proof of the brand’s reputation, therefore making purchasing decisions more comfortable and easier. Search engines understand the power of reviews and have been incorporating these data points into the digital profiles they create for businesses.

-- Consistent and relevant posts. There are no hard rules about when and what to post, so long as it’s consistent in both schedule and in theme. Sticking to a posting schedule, where you’re actively posting content a few times a week, provides search engines with a consistent flow of data they can use to create that digital profile of your business. Being consistent in theme means staying on message when it comes to promoting your brand. Posts that stray from your brand message or identity confuse not only visitors, but search engines as well.

-- Linking between social media profiles and your website. Search engines look at corresponding data to help verify your business. Corresponding data include the types of information mentioned above that can be found across different social media profiles, as well as how they link to each other.

Looking at social media activity as pure data points is playing to the strengths of search engines, but it doesn’t address how to effectively engage with your social media audience. To answer that question, we have to look at the bigger picture of what digital consumers really want: personal connection and community.

Your business should be the bridge that connects people and allows them to create their own community of shared interests and experiences rooted in your brand. Finding a way to foster this connection can be difficult, because it requires business owners to look inward and use their ingenuity and insight to craft engagement strategies that play to the strengths of their brands -- and speak to the unique personalities of their digital consumers.

It’s counterintuitive, but it could yield great rewards if done right.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at www.wyen.biz/blog1/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu, or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.


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