With every year that passes, there seems to be a growing divergence between small businesses and multi-national corporations. In today’s world of brands boasting billion-dollar marketing budgets, there is one equaliser. It is an avenue often ignored by small businesses, but which could be generating sales and encouraging much more engagement with their customers.
That equaliser is Social Media.
Many business owners believe that Social Media is a waste of time, too complicated or just not right for the industry they are in. However, these reasons have all expired in today’s digitally reliant world. The truth is, almost any business can benefit from using Social Media. It is not a matter of IF it can work, but rather, a question of HOW to make it work.
Below are a few tips that any business owner can use to kick-start their Social Media strategy.
1. Pick the right channels.
This is the first thing that you should be thinking about when beginning your strategy. When using the term “Social Media”, it does not merely relate to Facebook any more; the online landscape is more fragmented than ever before. Picking the wrong Social Media channel is akin to forgetting to tie your shoelaces before a 100m sprint; you are setting yourself up for failure. The right channels, picked for the right business, can really go a long way to achieving your business goals. For instance, a Café could run a very effective Facebook page.
However, if they did a bit of research, they would probably find that Instagram is a channel where they would get greater leverage, as this is a channel where photos are shared most widely – especially photos of food. On the other hand, a recruitment agency would find LinkedIn a much more powerful channel to spearhead their online campaign as it is primarily a professional network and a large number of people on LinkedIn are either looking to network or find a job.
2. Be authentic.
This is the main advantage of a small business. Your customers want to know that there is a real, living, breathing human behind the keyboard, and behind your business. One of the best ways to do this is to include your team. Your employees are the faces of your business, as well as the cogs that help it run smoothly.
Your staff should portray the personality of your business because this is what customers enjoy engaging with. For instance, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London’s first cat café, uses Social Media to introduce their customers to the café’s most loved employees, their rescued cats. But if you decide to give your employees access, be wary that they do not misuse the accounts. There needs to be guidelines in place for when and how employees can use the business’ social media accounts.
3. Listen & respond.
This is often the forgotten aspect of social media marketing. Most businesses post on Facebook and Instagram once or twice a week and leave it at that. You need to show your customers that you care about what each person has to say about your business. If your customers ask you a question, answer it, if they post a photo of your products on Instagram, re-post it. These simple gestures go a long way to managing relationships with your followers and creating a stable base of loyal customers.
One aspect of Social Media that many people are scared about, is negative feedback. If someone posts a negative review of your business, do not ignore or react negatively to the review. Rather, see it as an opportunity to change someone’s image of your business. In fact, many of these nay-sayers can become your most best customers, if you respond correctly.
4. Resist constantly selling.
Social Media, when used correctly, can be a very effective selling tool for your business. But at its core, it is about relationships and communication. When a business uses their Social Media accounts to bombard their followers with their products and sales pitches, it can be seen as desperate and annoying.
You should have a mix of content. There needs to be some that showcase your products, but others need to convey your business’ personality. Share news stories that are relevant to your industry, or photos that make you laugh. Do not underestimate the strength of emotions in selling a product.
The content that make your followers laugh, smile, or even cry, can make them feel more connected to your business. As soon as this positive connection is made, it sharply increases the likelihood of a follower online buying from you offline. If you have ignored or disregarded Social Media as a part of your wider marketing strategy as a small business, then you are missing a large opportunity.
The tips we have presented above are not the be-all and end-all of Social Media marketing, but they will go a long way to help you kick-start your business’ online presence. Social Media should be an important part of your business strategy, but it is only one part of your growth strategy.
You need to have an overall business plan that outlines how much your business will grow, in what timespan, and most importantly, the actions required to achieve that growth.