Did you know that consumers overwhelmingly believe word-of-mouth recommendations, such as those found on social media, over all other types of advertising? Studies, such as Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising, show that prospective customers increasingly rely on word-of-mouth postings of their friends, family, and acquaintances to make purchasing decisions. From which car to drive to which toothpaste best removes tartar, traditional marketing isn’t what entices customers to buy; in fact, overwhelmingly, it’s the court of public opinion that does.
Social media savvy has become a "must-have" in your business development toolbox. With literally dozens of social media sites to choose from, the choices and best practices for promoting your business can be overwhelming. Awareness of the different social media platforms and the unique tools they offer can be enormously beneficial. Previously for personal-use-only, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Yelp! have evolved into powerful business platforms, and they’re all free! Some of these also offer premium services at a cost that is worth considering as your business grows. The key to getting optimal results via social media is determining which vehicles are best for your business.
This blog post provides tips for developing a powerful social media strategy for your business. From customer demographics to data tracking, some proven tactics will help maximize your success while staying within budget. By following our 5 Step Process below, you can begin to select the right tools for your business and build a dynamic social media presence for your company.
Step #1 – Meet Where They Tweet
Different sites cater to different audiences, and choosing those that attract your target client is crucial. Whether your business focus is technology, retail, construction, or medicine, there is a social media platform that best suits your business.
With over 1.49 billion users, Facebook is the largest social media channel, so regularly posting updates and promoting special deals to a Company Page could quickly attract new business while enabling your current customer base to share your business with their followers. Additionally, Facebook is a fantastic option for businesses, such as retailers, whose customers might require direct conversation regarding a product or service.
LinkedIn, with over 380 million members, is one of the foremost business-to-business social media solutions. The key to LinkedIn’s success is the ability for professionals to network with one another through personal business connections. Their search features provide means for potential customers to find your business through keyword searches and recommendations posted by other customers, clients, or non-client business connections. Another favorable aspect of LinkedIn is as a publication tool, which allows companies to share relevant business posts. These articles offer insight into industries and are easily shareable so that your visibility increases through your areas of expertise. This is a fantastic platform for specific types of companies, such as leadership development, counseling services, or other businesses with something to teach others.
Now reaching 304 million active, monthly users, Twitter is highly useful when businesses want to get short bites of information out to a large number of followers. Its user-friendly capacity to quickly “push out” your message makes it a prime tool for marketers that don’t need a lot of customer interaction but want quick word-of-mouth sharing capabilities. Plus, by observing Twitter trends companies can better determine areas of interest to their customer base and adapt plans accordingly.
An interior designer’s work may best be showcased on social media channels like Instagram and Pinterest, with 300+ million and 75+ million users, respectively. Both are examples of visually driven sites that facilitate online display of a portfolio, which can then be followed by fans and shared with friends or colleagues. Similarly, “before” and “after” photos from small business owners such as house painting companies or carpet cleaning companies can be posted. Shop owners may post featured lines of products, subsequently benefiting by those products being promoted via their followers or fans through their personal networks.
To augment standard social media channels, videos are a highly effective way to engage customers and launch a new product or service. YouTube, the second most popular search engine on the Internet, enables a small business to easily drive video news and information to an interested audience, in effect leveling the playing field vis-à-vis larger competitors. Think of YouTube as a cost-effective way to create commercial content without the expense of buying airtime on television. Creating your own “YouTube” channel with several videos is easy, cost-effective and enables viewers to visually share information across their own social networks – which may include future customers for your business.
“Review sites” can be a powerful tool for companies that leverage high customer ratings as a way to attract new business. Among the most popular review sites are Yelp! and TripAdvisor. A restaurant owner may find review site Yelp! best to post menus, prices, and location information, while TripAdvisor content includes hotel information, photos and advice for business and vacation travel.
Action: If you haven’t done so, open a free account on a social media network that makes sense for your business. Then, find the sites that most closely match your customers’ interests and behaviors. By checking out the content on each site, you’ll get to know which is the most productive vehicle for your business.
Hint: Reserve the same “username” on each network to preserve your brand identity.
Step #2 – Be Methodical and Start with One Network
Start small. Taking on too many networks at one time can be overwhelming unless you are already familiar with the platform. Get to know and use one site that you think is best for starting your social media marketing effort. One way to feel confident you’ve made the right choice is to see where your competitors are and what they’re posting to their accounts.
Action: Once you’ve selected the best network for your business, complete your online profile, get actively involved, and update your page often. To build a following, you should post content frequently – at least a few times per week. The frequency depends on many factors, from information you need to share to how users interact with your posts. There is a fine line between engaging and annoying, so it’s important to find a balance.
Once you’ve become comfortable with the first site and you’ve started to develop a loyal following, you can branch out to another social media network. It won’t take you much time, but be sure to maintain your presence. Social media is not a spectator sport!
Step #3 – What to Post
Social media is not about “selling” – it’s about creating an online presence, building a community of followers, and enabling your followers to spread the word about the great products and services your company offers. It’s important to remember that time is a commodity that many people don’t have or, at the very least, prefer not to waste. Making your content relevant and captivating will entice consumers to read and share your posts.
Action: Think in terms of creating a conversation about your company. On Facebook for example, you’ll want to encourage followers to “Like” your company page or to post a positive comment about their dealings with your company. On Yelp!, encourage a customer who’s had a positive experience to post a review. Both instances are great “word of mouth” referrals resulting in powerful endorsements of your business.
Hint: Be a source of great information. Post content which readers may find educational or valuable, and you’re sure to attract a wider following as they share the experience with their own followers. You’ll be regarded as an expert rather than as someone always trying to make a sale. The more “Likes” and positive reviews you receive about your content, the more powerful your social media online presence will become.
Step #4 – Stay Connected
Social media is available to your customers around the clock, but that doesn’t mean you have to log in to post content at all hours of the day. There are many great tools available, at little to no price, that will allow you to plan your posts and updates in advance and post them on a schedule that you determine ahead of time.
HootSuite.com, Spredfast and Buffer are all sites worth checking out. These platforms will enable you to send posts to multiple social media sites automatically and track user data, allowing for better time management to meet your business needs. Just as there are tools to simplify and automate the sending of posts and updates, there are excellent tools to monitor all of your social media pages in one place, too.
Action: Be sure to monitor your brand frequently. You should always acknowledge positive comments, as this is the type of word-of-mouth marketing businesses should leverage. Also, check your pages and respond quickly to any negative posts in a positive manner. Negative feedback is inevitable, but perception is all about how you handle the negativity and reframe yourself. NutshellMail will aggregate the activity in each of your accounts and deliver it in one email at the dates and times you specify. One remarkable feature of this free service is that you can respond to posts or status updates directly from the NutshellMail email, saving you from having to log into each site.
Hint: It’s a good idea to periodically check the major search engines to see how your social media activity is appearing in SEO (search engine optimization) results. SEO can take your marketing efforts from barely making an impact to quickly reaching new customers and elevating your business. Google, Yahoo and Bing catalogue Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter activity; so updating your profile on social media sites from time to time may have the side benefit of increasing your ranking on these and other search engines.
Step #5 – Quantify Results
Results of your social media activities are easily calculated using “analytics” tools, which are widely available – many of them nearly real-time. “Dashboard” data will give you insights into how your content is resonating with followers. The dashboard is a management page available through the social media sites, which includes the aforementioned analytics tool. Tracked data can include how many views or visits you get, trends, and the number and quality of comments.
Action: Check results frequently to assess how well your efforts are paying off, and be willing to modify your content and delivery strategy for optimum results.
Hint: Activity trending upward will give you the confidence that you are becoming a trusted source of information, which over time will build loyalty, increase dialogue, and elevate the number of customer referrals you receive. A downward trend will indicate that a change in strategy is needed. Often minor changes will dramatically improve your outcomes, and they’re easy to implement.
Whatever your business, whether business-to-consumer or business-to-business, be proactive in promoting your online presence. Encourage your customers to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or wherever you have a social media presence. You’ll reap great rewards as you build relationships, enhance the value of your brand, increase dialogue with your most valued customers, gain endorsements and testimonials, and establish yourself as an expert. Following these tips will give you a strong head start in the world of social media for business.
Just as with other forms of promotion, however, you’ll need to give your efforts time to take root. A generally accepted rule of thumb is to allow 6 months of steady effort to establish your business via social media and begin to see results. By implementing some of these ideas, you can tap into new demographics, delight new and existing clients, and build your customer list at little or no additional cost.
You must be a registered user to add a comment. If you've already registered, sign in. Otherwise, register and sign in.
Contact the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org