low hanging fruitWith big companies come big plans, big strategies and big budgets. And in the world of Search and Email marketing, it’s often difficult for small businesses to compete.

But there is at least one place where small business can compete on an even playing field with the big boys – Social Media.

Big companies and brands may have marketing departments, but with that comes administration and bureaucracy. And that bureaucracy hinders their ability to move quickly and to connect with real fans on the ground.

So pick up the slack and woo every customer that they’re neglecting. Here’s 12 strategies you can use to pick the low-hanging social fruit and beat the big boys at their own game:

#1 – Be Reactive. A Strategic Plan Isn’t Required

Remember the days when you worked in a large corporate office? Draft a proposal, submit, wait, accept criticism and re-draft. The lag time before anything actually gets done increases in proportion to the size of the company.

One huge advantage you have as a small operator is that you can change as the environment does. For example, you may know discover that what works this month might not be as effective in December. If your Twitter stats are going down, don’t spend a month deliberating, figure it out and change your ways – now!

#2 – Read More Than You Write. Listen More Than You Measure

The biggest mistake large companies make is that they use new tools in conventional ways.

Facebook is not just another channel for sending out press releases. People care about conversation. The only way to know what they want is to listen and listen very carefully.

Setup Twitter searches and Blog Searches or use a social media monitoring tool and find out what people in your industry are talking about. Entering a conversation is much easier than starting a new one.

#3 – Give Away Everything You Can For Free

There is so much content on the web right now that anyone with decent research skills can find what they want without paying a cent.

If you’re producing content, provide it for free, allow it to be shared and ask for attribution rights rather than clinging to your intellectual property. Consider giving away your product (or service) in a Twitter Contest in order increase awareness (and “shareness”) of your brand.

#4 – Talking About Social Media Attracts Attention

It doesn’t matter which social network you use. In fact, use them all. But when doing so, be sure to talk about other networks as much as possible.

Variety adds depth to your conversation with your fans.

You’ll attract even more interest if you include references to other social media outposts in your updates. For example, saying something like “Ohhh I remember, you posted photos of that restaurant last week on Flickr, right?” will lead your target audience to even more places where they can follow you online.

#5 – Stick to your Niche

We’re not all experts in every niche. Stick to yours.

Publish good content and don’t go for short-term gains from discussing unrelated topics. Shifting focus dilutes your ability to position yourself as an expert in your field.

#6 – Link Link Link, It’s Hard to Predict Where Traffic Will Come From

Don’t worry if you regularly see visitors arriving from places you can’t remember putting links. In fact, They’re some of the best sources for traffic!

If you’re commenting on blogs, answering questions in forums or just generally entering conversations, don’t be afraid to create links back to your site. That doesn’t mean pasting URLs from your blog, but there’s nothing wrong with linking your name to your site. It’s good for your brand equity too.

#7 – Link to People You Want to Meet

People love it when “the community” talks about them. If there’s someone out there that you find interesting, if there’s someone you want to do business with, give them something before they even know you.

Quote them, borrow from them and link to them. You can give them a heads up that you’ve done this or not, but either way, they’ll find out eventually. Huge brownie points and future business opportunities can often result.

#8 – Be Factual

Don’t blast people with propaganda. Remember, everyone cares until they don’t and it’s really tough to win back attention that’s been lost.

Fact is better than fiction.

Prove what you say. Show stats, display graphs, give as much information as you possibly can. Opinions about politics or religion may be okay for those who are in those lines of business, but if that’s not you, then juts stick to the facts.

#9 – Pay Attention to SEO

Make sure your content is searchable before you start promoting it.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is not the big scary concept that it’s made out to be.
Create good titles, keywords, tags, links, and fresh content and that’s really all you need to know.

#10 – Steal Ruthlessly but Attribute Everything

This doesn’t mean taking things that aren’t yours. But you can totally borrow content.

For example, the headline for strategy #9 is a well known Web 2.0 slogan, courtesy of Devon Smith.

As long as you attribute things to the correct author, it’s a win-win situation for both parties.

#11 – Learn to Think in 140 Characters

Twitter. It might not have become such a phenomenon had it not limited its status updates to just 140 characters. And like it or not, in this world of information, shorter is better.

Learn to get your point across quickly. Fill that 140 character update with quality. Use your words sparingly and learn how to attract attention with your first sentence.

#12- Connections Matter

The big boys find this the most difficult thing to do. Inexplicably they cite being ‘too busy’ as an excuse not to make new connections.

So…establish connections everywhere!

Create connections and nurture them. They will prove their worth over time. But remember to give more to your connections than you take. Always.

What social media strategies would you add to this list? Would you remove any? Let is know by leaving a comment below.