Do you have a Facebook account? Twitter? Instagram? What about your customers? Social media is definitely not going away, in fact it’s an ubiquitous part of everyday life today because it is one of the most powerful forms of communication and conversation. So if you’re on social media and your customers are on social media, it’s a no-brainer that your business should be on social media, right?
A study in 2016 by Capital One reported that “40% of small business owners [SBOs] do not currently utilize social media. 26% of the SBOs who utilize social media say they are ‘very familiar’ with the ability to leverage commerce opportunities and market products through social media. Less than one quarter (21 percent) of business owners currently use data analytics to make more informed business decisions.”
With a such a sizeable group of small businesses opting out of social media what key opportunities could they be missing out on? As a small business, you want a broad audience and to be able to cast a wide reach for the greatest profit and return possible. Putting it bluntly, if you’re not on social media you are missing out on the cheapest and most direct way to market your small business.
So if it’s cheap and you have a targeted audience it should be easy to make money on social media, right? There’s a twist. Like the first rule of “Fight Club”, you “don’t talk about Fight Club.” The first rule of social media is “you don’t talk about your business, service or products on social media.” Instead your currency is quality content that adds value to your customer’s lifestyle and solve their needs and their problems.
Let’s explore further reasons why small business owners need to jump on the social media bandwagon.
1. Drives Website Traffic
What would it mean for your business to tap into a targeted and growing audience of over 1 billion active users on Facebook, 300 million on Twitter, 400 million users on LinkedIn and 500 million active Instagram users
Social media is the most inexpensive way to drive traffic to your website. If you are running a tight advertising budget (know of any small business that isn’t?) you can laser target your audience on each social media platform with valuable content about your upcoming events, discounts promotions and campaign and funnelling them to your website. With enticing call-to-actions (CTA) these leads can turn into conversions that will make your cash register ring.
By sharing your blog articles you provide valuable information that customers are looking for. The more valuable the content you share, the higher the search rankings due to the organic growth of back-links to your website.
If you’re a “bricks and mortar” business, this translates to local foot traffic. The ability to target geographically gives you access to target customers in a 20km, town-wide or state-wide radius around your storefront to let them know about your “pop-up” store or your “happy hour” for skinny soy cafe lattes.
2. Provides Invaluable Market Research
Small marketing budget? If it’s more like “no budget,” you can learn a lot by visiting the individual profiles of the people who have followed your business on social media. By reading some of their tweets, mentions, and what they share on Facebook or Google+ or scanning their photo albums or what they “like” or pin you can gain a qualitative understanding of your customer. This is “nice”, but the power comes when you untangle the truth that lies in their data trail.
For that you need tools! Many social media platforms have analytic tools that allow you to easily track industry trends. Youtube, Facebook and Google come with builtin tools. If you have a modest budget you can go for third party software like Iconosquare for Instagram, ViralWoot for Pinterest and FollowerWonk for Twitter, to name but a few.
You can gather information on your competitors and check out their content (and… psst… they won’t even know you are eavesdropping). If you’re looking for a package that has all the “bells and whistles,” services such as Hootsuite , AgoraPulse and Buffer can provide you with analytics, content recommendation and schedule your posts across multiple platforms.
These tools allow you to participate in “social media listening” which means you can understand the needs, wants, passions and pain points of your customers. It’s the ultimate “focus group” that gives you instant feedback on offers, marketing messages, pricing and most importantly your company’s reputation. The group isn’t limited to 6-12 willing participants who are looking for a free voucher for their time, but potentially up to thousands of people, giving you a far more diverse cross-section of society than you ever could gather at 6pm on a week-night.
3. Know Your Customers
No longer do you have to guess or assume what your customers are interested in. Using social media you can get to know your target customers by hanging out with them online.
Since social media is part of everyone’s daily routine from private messages to updating their status and uploading photos of themselves, family, friends and food. Every one of your customers that use social media generates data about themselves in real-time which gives you insights about their behaviour, personality, lifestyle, location, interests, milestones and most importantly, their impression about your brand.
You just want to know something as basic as which social media platform they spend most of their time on and when, so you can reach out on that channel. Depending on the nature of your business, you may realise that 10 of your customers like pug dogs and of those, 5 of them also like home improvements. You could then target those customers with your latest pug sleeping bed with customised name plates and matching duvet.
Use this knowledge wisely or you may send the wrong impression if you email your customer condolences because your analytics picked up that she “liked” a local funeral home and her 98 year old grandma is no longer connected to her profile. That would be getting too familiar and be heading towards the “creep” or “stalker” factor.
Understanding the profile of your customer’s helps you stay ahead of the competition. By utilising data analytics you can tailor your approach when communicating with them to provide better services, offers and experience. This means connecting with them as actual human beings.
4. Builds Your Brand’s Personality
Social media is where you can “walk the talk”. Using visually powerful content you can instantly “humanise” the values of your brand and create your story. If you create content that enriches your brand and showcases your product or service in your customer’s lifestyle it will spark engagement. The result is more likes, pins, comments and shares making your brand more visible.
The major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram offer sponsored ads or paid advertising. Done effectively paid advertising allows you to place your content in front of the right audience at the right time who live the lifestyle that merits your brand. On most platforms these ads can be setup with a budget starting from as little as a couple of dollars a day to hundreds of dollars. Giving you control on how much want to spend on a marketing campaign.
Of course everyone wants free publicity for their small business. There is the option to avoid paid advertising by going the organic route. The only cost is your time. Being online, being a listener, getting involved in conversations across platforms, responding, asking questions, asking for feedback and building a relationship. It this sense you are using social media as it was intended for – a medium for social relationships.
Organic likes, comments, retweets and shares are more akin to “word of mouth” conversations and in this sense they are far more powerful than paid advertising. Customers who identify with your brand’s personality have a reason to converse and be active contributors of your brand, because your product or service is part of their lifestyle.
If you see a friend “like” something on Facebook – you’re more likely to trust their opinion – and check out the content and “like” it yourself. This builds your brand’s social influence. It’s free, effortless and compelling marketing.
The connection you have with your customers on social media is an (overwhelming) opportunity to showcase your customer service. Answering inquiries and responding to comments quickly will ensure a positive engagement and establish how your brand’s unique personality is perceived.
5. Establishes credibility and loyalty
How quickly do you trust someone you just met? So imagine the difficulty for your customers interacting with you for the first time but having never met you or (in some cases) seen your face. They are literally only seeing “bits and bytes” and flashing lights on a computer or mobile screen.
According to Forbes magazine, you can take customer relationships to the next level by making it about the customer and not the product. This is achieved by allowing them to share their story on your timeline, leverage social media to provide great support and inspiration, make it customer-centric, not product-centric and take every opportunity to encourage feedback.
The adage “you are more than just a number” is even more acute on social media. In showing your (potential) customers that they are “more than just a follower”, you show that you care and value them.
Building a social media conversation instills confidence in both your existing and potential customers. It reminds them that they are more than just a recipient of your product or services but that you’re still around and that their comments matter. Your social media engagements thus become an authentic virtual testimony about you.
6. Closes The Deal
Not only can you can distribute your product catalogue across multiple platforms and engines like Amazon, Yahoo Shopping, Google Merchant. You can now embed a buy button on your social media posts and close a sale without your customer leaving their online community. Apps like Spreesy allow you to make sales from your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest posts.
You can close the deal without your customers having to switch out of their social feed.
Is this enough to information to build a business case for investing in social media? It’s not the magic pill that will save your business, but nor should you avoid it and say “it is of no value.” Having a social media presence is as necessary as having an “We’re Open” sign on your storefront door.
You don’t have to be on every social media platform. Focus on the social media site where your customers spend the majority of their time. That will give you the best return on your investment, and remember: Be authentic and treat your customers as humans.
by TuiSiong Hie
Digital Media Strategist & Founder at Cross+word
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