This article on businesses and social networks was written by a friend of FRANk Media, Tyler Jeffries. Tyler is a freelance writer from the US specializing in technology, finance and education.
According to recent data in The Economist, nearly 80% of businesses in the U.S. are staffed by fewer than 10 people. Small business owners make up the bulk of entrepreneurship in America, and are tasked with finding cost-effective ways to grow their businesses. Social media outlets may formerly have been thought of as toys that twenty-somethings use to stay connected. But now applications like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are proving they give small business owners the unique opportunity to develop a sense of community within their customer base.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is a fairly simple concept that is often misunderstood. The use of certain keywords on your website and in your social media interactions drives your Google search ranking higher. Devoting the time to research and use these keywords pays off in brand awareness and sales. Like any marketing campaign, capitalizing on SEO and social media networks requires clear strategy; without it, your competitors may leave you in the dust.
Benefits to Small Businesses
Companies who have success with social media redefine the traditional approach to promotion. Paid media (advertising) and owned media (your website) should seamlessly converge with what is known as earned media: Facebook likes, tweets and retweets, customer commentary and SEO. To put it simply: today’s best small businesses maximize their advertising dollar by building a community of faithful customers – social media successes are a business’s best friend. Things that once seemed intangible, such as Facebook likes, Yelp reviews, and tweets, are now proof that customers respond to your brand. In turn, these same customers reward your business with public approval and open ended discussions of your business. Not only can you put this direct input into practice, your potential customers can turn to the resources and quickly get what your business is all about.
This doesn’t mean you just “flick on the social media light” and wait for results. You need to spend time developing a lasting online presence. This can mean directly responding to negative feedback, offering online-only perks, or just playfully updating your fans, keeping your business on their minds. Whatever your tailored approach is, you need to make sure it is consistent and engaging. Social media success will always depends upon your level of involvement.
Show Me the Metrics
Any marketer worth their salt knows that measurable results define a successful campaign. With these emerging technologies, it is sometimes difficult to establish useful metrics to justify your marketing budget. The use of social media challenges marketers to expand their definition of return on investment (ROI) to include the positive effects of brand awareness.
While they may find it confusing when Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and FourSquare continually tweak platforms and user interfaces, 72% of small business owners are aware of the need to grasp technologies. Now not all small businesses can directly benefit from the four major social media tools. Before you get really involved in media metrics, make sure you understand how your business operates, what makes it successful, etc. Only then can you understand which tools to approach and the best ways to benefit from them.
But for most models, the ability to establish community within a customer group helps refine customer service response and brand promotion, which ultimately converts to hard sales data. Low-cost social media efforts create an avenue to drive traffic to your website and allow you to offer incentives and promotions without direct marketing costs.
Boosting your social presence starts with simply using the right technology. A thorough company will want to consider a Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, Pinterest pages, a Google+ group, or even a blog. The best way to decide if a tool works for you is to look at the sorts of businesses using a given tool. Is their online presence successful? What is it about a particular tool that makes their business standout?
Consider the following scenario: a client approaches a social media consultant simply hoping to increase likes on their Facebook page. Further discussion reveals that, in fact, what the client really wants is to build out their mailing list in an effort to solidify public understanding of their product. While an admirable goal, the client’s fuzzy grasp of what Facebook likes actually do for their business shows that they have no clear vision of how to best accomplish goals through social media. Instead, the business should not have simply limited themselves to Facebook. Specific goals require specific social media solutions that can only be articulated after properly researching a number of distinct options.
Social Media Musts
- Here are some invaluable lessons you need to know in order to truly capitalize on social media:
- Add plug-ins to your website that encourage social media sharing. Facebook and Twitter share buttons not only allow your readers to communicate their responses to you, they also let you share your messages with potential customers.
- When building business pages on Facebook or Google+, ask your family and friends to help with promotion. While this can further your social presence, make sure your business page always comes off as completely professional. Never treat it like your own personal profile!
- Don’t forget that the vast majority of social media sites have specific rules you need to know and adhere to – if you don’t, you risk being suspended or banned from a given site. This could mean months of your time and expense down the drain!
- Take notice of customers who faithfully interact and reward them. Consider a “Fan of the Week” promotion with a coupon for services.
- Tweet regularly. Try posting blog announcements, special incentives to purchase, and useful information, such as a link to a relevant article published elsewhere. Strive to provide consistent content and respond directly to customers who address you on Twitter.
- When your social media sources are activated, send out a newsletter to your customer base announcing the new contact channels. Include buttons to ensure one-click access to these sources.
- Mention your social media sites in traditional advertising.
- Attract new followers with incentives that make them feel special. A discount or free service can drive traffic to your product, and the feeling of inclusiveness can make a first-time customer a regular customer.
- Directly address your public. Get patrons and potential patrons interested with polls or direct questions on the social media platform of your choosing. Such options work like free, highly specific market studies. No business can afford to pass up on such data opportunities.
- Seriously consider investing in paid ad options on social media, such as Facebook Ads. Low-cost advertising can produce high traffic and provide excellent demographic metrics.
When it comes down to it, a small business in today’s climate needs to embrace information-centric customers and the social media they love. Any business that can’t get with the program will end up in technology’s dustbin.