More small and mid-sized businesses recognize the power of social media.
Research from GetApp revealed 56 percent of small business owners and managers say social media offers the best digital brand-building strategy. They believe it’s more effective than developing apps or investing in technologies like digital signage.
Although a small or mid-sized business can create social media accounts and post announcements relatively easily, reaching business objectives such as obtaining more customers and increasing sales and revenue is more difficult. Engaging with customers can be time-consuming and confirming the business value of social media efforts can be challenging.
Experts recommend these steps to help small and mid-sized businesses implement effective social media marketing.
Go where your customers are. Only large companies and brands have resources to remain active on most social media networks. Different platforms serve different needs and cater to different demographics. Instead of choosing networks arbitrarily, savvy businesses research platforms to determine where their targeted customers are active.
Provide value. Constantly promoting your business will bore and annoy customers. A mix of helpful advice and promotional news gain a following while publicizing your products. Experts typically recommend a maximum of 20 percent promotional material and 80 percent educational. It’s acceptable to sometimes stray off topic to offer customers helpful information.
“Always ask yourself: Is this content valuable to my clients or prospects? If the answer is no, don’t waste your time – or theirs,” said Sarah Lane, marketing specialist at Impact Marketing.
Listen to customers. Monitoring social media for your businesses and products allows you to find negative remarks that require responses and resolve customer service issues. Monitoring can also uncover positive comments that businesses can share. Monitoring for industry terms identifies sales leads. As social media listening services become more advanced, they’ve become a viable option for all but the smallest businesses.
For instance, law firms can acquire clients through social media listening by monitoring for their specialties, such as “auto accident” and suggest their services. Customers feel more comfortable with businesses that offer valuable information while avoiding an immediate hard sell.
Take some risks. Share advice in a fun and interesting way with humor and opinion. Share funny stories and quick facts people might find surprising. Education and information provided on social media is much more likely to be understood if it’s presented in an engaging way. But be careful. It’s easy to offend.
Include images. These attract attention and increase engagement. Rather than being satisfied with generic stock images, seek high-quality ones that are relevant to your content or brand. You don’t necessarily need a professional photographer if you can produce photos with good contrast, lighting and composition.
Support the community. Support your community by sharing others’ posts, answering questions and participating in discussions.
“Sure your brand and logo are important – but what really connects people to you are shared beliefs and ideas,” said Ravi Shukle at Post Planner. “Talking openly about what you’re thinking and where you want to head will help unite your followers and grow a stronger, more passionate community.”
Measure results. It’s essential to establish goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-based. Changes in web traffic, website conversions and other metrics can reveal the effectiveness of social media marketing and where to make adjustments.
“Without the benefit of a marketing team creating a strategy complete with goals and measurement, small businesses have a harder time evaluating marketing efforts,” writes Suzanne Delzio, director of Informed Web Content, for Social Media Examiner.
Dedicate adequate resources to the task. “If you’re not investing, at a minimum, the equivalent of 25 percent of a full-time employee daily to execute your social media marketing strategy, you likely will not get the results you need and expect,” stressed John Beveridge, president and founder of Rapidan Inbound. “Your social media manager should be measuring, communicating, posting, responding and analyzing your social media marketing every day.”
Properly implemented, social media marketing can produce gains in sales, number of customers and lifetime value of customers. It’s not easy; it takes effort and commitment. In time, local followers will grow and positive results will accumulate.
One last tip: Promote your social media accounts to your existing customers on cash register receipts, for instance, and in mailings.
William Comcowich is founder and acting CEO of Glean.info, a media monitoring and measurement service for public relations and marketing.
William Comcowich is founder and acting CEO of Glean.info, a media monitoring and measurement service for public relations and marketing. He’s speaking at the Public Relation Society of America’s Hampton Roads Chapter lunch meeting May 17.
On – 15 May, 2017 By William Comcowich