By now, you have probably heard the success stories of companies like Dell and Starbucks, which have created hugely successful social media presences that serve millions of fans and generate millions of dollars of revenue. The only problem is, your small business doesn’t have 1/1000th of the brand recognition these companies have. You run a solid small business that is well known in your niche or your region, but not beyond.
How can social networks become useful marketing and operations tools for smaller businesses that don’t have a large customer base?
This question has kept many small businesses from interacting on social networks, as a recent study showed that only 24 percent of small businesses had begun social media marketing.
Here are five tips to optimize your small business’ social networks to attract more customers online. Small business owners and marketers do not have the luxury of lots of free time to monitor social networks, so these tips are intended to help you be as efficient as possible.
#1: Make Your Profiles About More Than Just Your Industry
While you should be demonstrating expertise on your Facebook fan page and your blog, you should also be adding local context to this information. What does the information you are providing mean for your specific region?
If you are selling homes, provide information and links about the local area, as well as the real estate you are offering. As a small business, you are competing against large national news sources, so provide something the big guys can’t afford to give—local perspective. The Wydler Brothers Realty Team does just that, offering insights on the Washington, D.C. market as well as homes they are offering in the area.
On their blog, Wydler Brothers Realty offers advice on the general DC area, in addition to their expertise in the real estate industry.
#2: Offer Value
By far the most important tip to getting value from social media for your business is offering value to the customers you want to interact with. First, make sure your social media presences contain all the information a customer needs to find you on and offline, and provide a clear idea of what your business offers.
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Second, define what you'll be offering your potential customers in return for their attention and time. You can offer promotions or discounts specifically for fans of your Facebook page, for instance.
If you do not have the budget for special offers, make sure the content you are offering is valuable to the potential customers you are trying to reach. Envision the need you are filling for the target customer and serve the customer with useful information related to your business or industry.
#3: Show Consistency
Nothing is more likely to reduce the effectiveness of small business social media outreach than inconsistency and spotty participation. You can’t expect potential customers to revisit your Facebook profile if it is hasn't been updated in the two weeks since they first visited, or expect them to make a purchase from your Twitter outreach if you only post 2 updates per month.
For example, Naked Pizza, based in New Orleans, messages its followers on Twitter 1 to 15 times per day. It is now receiving 20 percent of its total revenue from these interactions.
#4: Diversify and Connect
It takes some time investment on the front end, but reaching out on multiple social platforms—then connecting the different presences with the same themes and message—is crucial to reaching the most possible customers on social networks. You don’t want to replicate the same message on every platform, either. Though services like ping.fm are great for simplifying content posting, try to add something unique to each social media presence you maintain.
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#5: Be Competitive
Observe your competition and their social media activity. If your business is the only one in your industry and region interacting on social networks, congrats, you're ahead of the curve. But more likely than not, your competitors are experimenting on social networks, too. Observe what they are doing to grow their base. Which tactics are working? Which are not? This is exactly what you'd do in a competitive assessment offline, looking for ways to improve your process by evaluating your competitors.
Remember to stay persistent, as it takes time to establish robust presences on social media sites. If you act on these five tips in your social media outreach, you will leverage your time effectively, and see improved results from promoting your small business on social networks.
What techniques have been most successful for you on your business’ social media presences? Which of these tips do you see the most/least potential in? Let us know by commenting in the box below!
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