Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter now dominate the Internet landscape. Accordingly, the way businesses have approached marketing on the Internet is changing, too. It’s no longer all about having the right web ads on the right sites, or even having the largest email mailing list. While those strategies aren’t entirely worthless, many businesses are finding larger success with social media marketing.
Yet, how exactly does a small business with limited resources tap into to the social media marketing pipeline? With tight budgets and relatively little technical knowledge, it can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to plug into this emerging medium:
1. Start a blog. Starting a blog is one of the fastest and easiest ways to break into social media. Blogs are, arguably, one of the first and oldest forms of social media. There are several advantages to blogging, including the fact that blogs interface seamlessly with most social media sites. Not only that, the consistent content updates that blogging provide will help your website in terms of its overall search engine rankings.
2. Provide social media based customer service. When you think about social media marketing, your first thought probably isn’t dealing with customer service issues. However, this is actually one of the most effective methods for using social media, especially for a small business. When you help a social media contact with a customer service issue, you’re not only helping them. You’re helping their social media friends or followers, as well. On top of that, you’re demonstrating to everyone involved just how committed you are to customer service.
It’s no longer all about having the right web ads on the right sites, or even having the largest email mailing list.
3. Make important networking connections. Social media present an opportunity to connect with others in your field that you might otherwise not have access to. A small business can put this phenomenon to work for marketing purposes. For example, let’s suppose you run a small retail sporting goods store. By following the local sports team on Facebook and interacting with fans on the team’s page, you can let them know about various products you have that they might be interested in. There are plenty of opportunities like this where you can tap into a much larger market and still connect with people in your area.
4. Increase your reputation as an expert in your niche. Another important use for social media is in the area of branding and authority. By engaging with people in your niche, you can help to establish your personal brand or business as a reliable, trusted source. For example, a small computer consulting business might engage in a conversation on Twitter with someone who’s having trouble connecting their computer to a network. By troubleshooting that problem online, you demonstrate your expertise both to the user and to their social media contacts.
5. Get involved with the local community. Social media provide opportunities for you to get involved in your local community, and to leverage that involvement into additional exposure for your business. For example, if your business sponsors a local Special Olympics event, you can link to their Facebook page from yours. You’ll not only be supporting that particular cause, you’ll be letting those who follow you on Facebook know that your business is involved with and concerned about the local community.
By engaging with people in your niche, you can help to establish your business as a reliable, trusted source.
6. Provide discounts to social media followers. Another wonderful way to leverage social media that can often result in a measurable and immediate uptick in sales is via exclusive discounts. You might advertise a certain loss leader only via Twitter, for example. You might provide the link to a given coupon for 40% off a single item only to those who “Like” your Facebook page. These social media exclusive discounts have a way of spreading quickly; once the right person gets wind of it, you’ll see a rapid increase in followers – and in business.
7. Build an email marketing list. You can also use social media to help build an email marketing list. Email marketing is still a powerful tool, when used correctly. Put links to sign up for your monthly newsletter on your blog, and post them regularly to your social media profiles, as well. This brings in customers from any number of sources, and lets you reach them all at once. You can also publish your newsletter to your social media feed, thereby reaching those users who haven’t signed up for the email marketing list.
Social media has tremendous potential for small businesses. Try some of these techniques to put the power of social media to work for you today.
Benji Hyam is a Social Media Coordinator at Vistage International, an executive coaching organization that helps CEO members build better companies through unique business coaching opportunities.