Cost effective marketing with limited time and budget can be challenging—that’s why small business and social media makes perfect sense, especially during precarious economic times. With little to no cost up front, social media for small business provides the perfect alternative to traditional advertising to attract new customers and retain old ones.
Use of Social Media Increasing
On May 26, 2011, an article titled, “Survey of Small Business Owners Shows Widespread Adoption of Social Media; Facebook as a Favorite Business Tool; Significant Use Across Age Groups.” was published on PRWeb Newswire. According to this article, The Small Business Social Media Survey conducted in May 2011 found that 77 percent of small business owners surveyed said they plan to spend more of their marketing budget on social media in 2011 than they did in 2010.
Small business owners realize that using social media to connect with customers has its advantages. However, some owners feel that using social media for marketing is hit-and-miss. Businesses that use social media successfully have determined which combination of sites reached the largest percentage of its customer base before reaping any benefits. Business owners should ask themselves if social media is an effective way to reach their target customers or whether it could be effective in reaching a new customer base.
Social Media Tools
Once the target audience is determined, the next step is to find out what social media it most likely uses. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are some well-known social media sites. There are millions of active users with the majority checking their accounts multiple times daily. Smartphones have made this daily access possible. These tools allow a business owner to:
- Showcase products and services
- Advertise specials
- Have contests and giveaways
- Keep their business fresh in the minds of customers and potential customers with virtually no expense
It also allows for interaction with customers by asking questions and asking for likes and comments.
Social Media Strategy
Creating a strategy will help the overall success of your social media efforts. The strategy should support the company’s goals and help evolve the company in some way. Decide which social media tools will be used and who will be running them. Will it be the business owner, employees, a public relations professional, or a combination of these? A social media policy will be helpful to spell out what information can be given out if someone other than the business owner will be updating the social media sites.
Options for using social media are endless. Defining the objective is key. Are you trying to:
- Acquire new customers
- Gather data
- Create some buzz among existing clients?
This will determine if your social media sites will be used to run promotional campaigns, get feedback from followers, or just allow clients to discuss the products and services.
Consistency Is The Key
Social Media should be used in conjunction with a company website. Both should work together to showcase your business and further your web presence. However, simply creating a company website or Facebook page is not enough. These have to be updated on a regular basis.
When customers visit your company’s website or social media links, old or dated information is not going to grab customers’ attention. On April 7, 2010, Peter Wylie posted “5 Small Business Tips for Social Media Success” on SocialMedia Examiner. Wylie says, “You can’t expect potential customers to revisit your Facebook profile if it hasn’t been updated” recently “or expect them to purchase from your Twitter outreach if you only post 2 updates per month.” The more posts about your company, the more your company and products are going to be at the forefront of the minds of potential customers.
It is important to know when people are mentioning your business, and to get in on the conversation. Listen to what the customers are saying and respond. Set up web alerts to make this easier. If it is not feasible or possible to tweet five times a day or update Facebook once a day, determine a schedule that does fit. Update Facebook once a week or set up something like “Twitter Tuesday” where you interact with Twitter followers every hour or two on that day.
Managing Social Media
Is it too time consuming or difficult to manage and consistently update your existing social media accounts? There are management tools that can help you streamline your social media time. On July 5, 2011, TJ McCue posted “Manage Your Social Media Efforts: Review of Postling” on Small Business Trends. McCue states, “Postling is a social media management tool that lets you view and control your accounts from one single interface.”