After years of avoiding social media, small businesses are starting to embrace it – but are they really reaping the benefits?

Not according to Business Network International (BNI), whose latest survey found 75% of business owners have been “put off” a particular company due to their poor use of social media.

How do small companies ensure they turn those likes and follows into customer engagement and increased sales? There is plenty of advice online, but it’s largely generic and offers little practical value for business owners who needs more tailored advice.

An alternative option is to look at those firms that have got their social media strategy right and are winning new business as a result.

Southport Road Dental, a private dental practice in Chorley, Lancashire, wasn’t using any social media when dentist David Hickey took over in 2010.

Recognising the potential it offered to raise the practice profile, and engage and educate existing patients, he established a presence on Twitter and Facebook and monitored activity through call tracker numbers. Linking both feeds to the website has kept the practice consistently high in dentistry-related searches for the area.

However, the real key to practice’s social media strategy has been its use of YouTube video.

Hickey explains: “It allows potential new patients to see previous clients and their experiences, and to see me before they pick up the phone, which has made a huge difference for those who are nervous or fearful. Trust is a large part of my business and the videos of me on the website are a start to building trust.”

The other benefit of using video is optimisation; fresh video content boosts SEO rankings However, hitting the right tone is crucial. The key says Hickey, is spontaneity.

Hickey’s strategy has delivered on its objective of converting increased website traffic into patient enquiries.

However there are some basic rules that all businesses should follow if they want results…

• Be selective and focus on the platforms where potential customers are likely to be.

• Be social; don’t just announce, engage.

• Be responsive. Establishing a presence on social media is an invitation for people to communicate with you. Ignore them and your efforts will be wasted.

• Be adaptable. Social media is evolving rapidly and businesses must constantly monitor and measure activity and responses and adapt their strategies accordingly.

“Business is all about relationships; be generous, be interested in other people, invest the time and effort, and it will pay off”

Here at Forbes Burton – How to Close Company, using social media is one way of updating potential customers of the services we offer and the ways we could help people like yourselves. A vast amount of the population now use social media such as Facebook and Twitter so using its services is a good way of getting your service out to other people.

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