Ask a small business owner where they network, and you're likely to hear an alphabet soup answer that includes a number of weekly or monthly professional organizations they belong to, where they meet, shake hands, say a few words and pass referrals.
But more and more business owners recognize that networking on social media platforms is a valuable tool that puts them in front of the people who will use (and talk about) their product or service, gives them an opportunity to join conversations that help them learn what their prospective customers are looking for, and – perhaps most importantly – can be done from almost anywhere!
A Pew Research study conducted in December 2012 revealed that more than 70% of adults who use social media also shop online. Those same users write reviews, share product information with users in their network and are more likely to be “brand-loyal,” studies by the NPD Group revealed.
Social media marketing informs your inbound marketing strategy and when done correctly, helps you build brand awareness and customer loyalty. (On the other hand, hard-selling, spamming and other breaches of “netiquette” can harm your brand, so it helps to know what you're doing!)
Small business owners must remember that social media is PART OF their marketing campaign, and requires commitment, a strategy, and reasonable expectations.
If you are already comfortable on social media for personal use, you will likely be able to tweak your routine to include using it to grow your business as well. Download a tutorial, take an online course, or schedule some time with a social media professional to help get you up to speed.
If you aren't “tech-savvy” and the thought of networking on social media makes your palms sweat – or if you don't have the time to commit to regular updates - it might be worth hiring someone to manage your campaign for you.
Either way, making a commitment to spend time daily on building your brand, using search terms/keywords and staying in front of your target audience is a valuable piece of your marketing puzzle.
There's a reason we have a mute button on the TV remote, and that DVR-ing our favorite shows has become so popular: people don't like to be “sold to.”
Some of the best tools in your social media toolbox are stories, customer testimonials – and your expertise! In your chosen field, you are privy to information that everyday customers are not. Sharing your knowledge creates compelling content for your blogs, status updates and more.
The best part is, compelling information gets “shared” on social media. And by tracking the number of views, and the number of conversions to sales, you will find out which content people are looking for so you can offer more of it!
And when your customers comment or ask questions, it is a good idea to respond. Social media is, after all “social,” so interaction is an important key to the success of your campaign.
I've heard people say they “tried social media” but it “didn't work.” Usually that happens when a business owner hears about “record sales” by a colleague or competitor, then doesn't experience the same kind of success for their own business.
Social media is fairly simple, but – unlike Jack's magic beans – your sales won't see extreme growth overnight. Set reasonable goals – posting three new messages per day, or gaining 100 new fans per week, for example.
Then stick with the plan. Continue to post and share. Respond. Ask questions. Participate in online conversations. And track your success using the tools set up by the social media platform, or through software tools your web developer can help you with.
You want to go where your target audience is. With 70% of adults using social media, small business' want to make sure they are in front of customers on the right platforms, offering content that they will find compelling.