In the last few years, social media has exploded into our lives in a way that it would have been almost impossible to predict even a decade ago. If Facebook were a country it would be the third most populated country in the world, coming in above the United States with a staggering 400 million users.
Facebook is not alone in the Social Media revolution however, as rivals Twitter, Linked In and now Google+ have all cornered a particular sector of the social sphere, meaning that whatever you want to say and whoever you want to say it to, there are a whole host of ways to communicate online.
From a business perspective, social media throws up a whole host of opportunities and the big companies have all been eager to get involved in the social marketing phenomenon. Brands such as Gillette and Pizza Hut have all traded in their time honoured brand identities in order to create a viral sensation, putting their tailored image to one side in order to create a funny and quirky hit on the net.
Recently, television adverts have started to feature “Find us on Facebook” badges directing people to their company Facebook page, and there is no doubting social media’s ability to get more people involved with your company, building brand awareness and loyalty in the process.
But if you are a small business owner, just how relevant is social media going to be to your company and how can you best utilise it in your company?
Before we go any further, let’s undergo a bit of expectation management. You can’t just create a Facebook page or start Tweeting and expect massive sales to happen as a result. You need to research and get to know each platform on its own and from there you can learn what abilities it has and where you can best apply them to make a difference in your business. Big companies are better placed to jettison their brand identity in the chase for securing a viral hit through the latest fashionable platform, but the small business owner can be slightly cleverer than that.
Many small business owners are of the mind-set that “social media doesn’t work for us”, but such a blanket assumption neglects the many advantages that can be gleaned from utilising the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Rather than being a one-stop business solution, social media is like a tool box, and just like anything, you need to use the best tool for the job.
Rather than any fancy brand building exercise, brand awareness in this case simply means getting people to know you exist and that you’re pretty damn good. If you’re aiming your services at a particular location or community, get your happy customers to click the Like button on your Facebook page. This acts as a recommendation to all of those people’s contacts on Facebook and will even appear in the search engines, so if they happen to be looking for a mechanic in Aldershot and one of their friends has Liked them on Facebook, that’s one pretty powerful endorsement for your services.
Talk to your Customers
If it’s one thing that social media is great at it’s talking. Building an interaction with your customer base is a great way of building a sense of authority around your website, especially if you are going to be selling to people. When people are considering an online purchase, one of the first questions they will ask is “is this website genuine, can I trust it?” By interacting with your customers on social media, people can see that you are a genuine business and it helps people to trust that you are for real.
This is also a great place for dealing with any issues that customers may have, so don’t simply set up a Twitter account and then forget about it as it doesn’t look good to ignore customers who might be trying to contact you.
Don’t worry about receiving complaints in public either, as your response to these will show the public how customer focused you are. Some of the best reviews and testimonials you will receive will be from people who had a problem that you dealt with successfully, so don’t be too worried about receiving complaints, just deal with them in a satisfactory way.
To cover every potential business application for social media would take many more posts, so the key takeaway from this article is to approach each platform separately and judge it on its own merits. Don’t try and force the issue and use a bit of common sense as well as creativity when analysing how you can bring the world of social media into your business.Think of it as a tool box and carefully choose the right tools to accomplish the most relevant tasks for you.
Alan Grainger is an in-house B2B web marketer in the promotional giftssector and manages SEO forThe Promotional Gifts Company. He writes articles exploring the issues faced by the B2B web marketer, giving an “in the trenches” view from an in-house SEO department. Follow him @alanjgrainger.
Image: Online Social Networking