How to Market with Social Media
There's no doubt about it - small businesses are beginning to utilize social media tools and tactics with more frequency than ever before. A recent study by eMarketer reports that 260,000 small businesses across the U.S. and Canada are employing social media tactics. Fifty-one percent of small businesses are using social media for professional social networking using tools like LinkedIn.com and 28 percent are involved in microblogging using tools like Twitter.
There are several things to think about before just jumping right into using these tools. The most important is your time. Viral marketing through social media really requires a dedicated amount of time each day and you have to understand the value of your time. Many of the available tools are free to use. But that does not mean they don't come at a cost, because they certainly do. The cost is human capital. Think of it as a pet. While the pet may cost a little or even nothing, caring for it takes a lot of time. The same is true for social media marketing and networking.
Before you start, make sure your strategy is clear! There is a lot of social media hype and peer pressure to use these technologies. Just make sure you clearly understand your key goals and objectives. For example, are you trying to build direct sales with customers, improve positioning of your product or service, or build your authority in a specific area? Answering these critical questions will help you move forward with your strategy.
Your first step should be to verify whether the audience you are trying to reach is already using social media. If your target market isn't using Twitter or Facebook, then why are you? You also need to do your homework on where the audience you are trying to reach already exists. Are they on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter? Are they joining groups or creating new ones? These are all key questions to understanding your audience and how to best engage them.
What are some of the immediate benefits that small businesses are finding with social media? Well, most small businesses will tell you that social networking can help foster stronger relationships with customers, enable a faster vehicle to answer customer questions, incorporate customer feedback, and build awareness for their expertise. However, many small businesses are still trying to understand how social media can ring the cash register.
A New Orleans-based pizza company called Naked Pizza has used Twitter to successfully ring the register. The company has over 4,700 followers on Twitter. That means every time the company has something to say, 4,700 people will receive the message and could forward it to their friends and so on, potentially reaching way more than Naked Pizza's 4,700 followers. Jeff Leach, the CEO of Naked Pizza, reported that nearly 69 percent of sales were generated during a one-day Twitter advertising blitz.
Other companies are also seeing direct-to-customer sales via social media. For example, Barbershops, Spas & Salons is using Twitter to let customers know that walk-in times are available due to cancelled appointments. Before Twitter, this was lost profit.
Another great example of Twitter ringing the register is The Albion bakery. When there's a fresh batch of bread out of the oven, it notifies Albion customers via Twitter and Facebook. If you are ready to take a dip into social media, Ad Age offers 5 tips for marketing on social media platforms:
- Track sales made on social media.
- Don't use Twitter as Facebook (and vice versa).
- Create a conversation with friends and followers.
- Sell last-minute inventory.
- Alert followers to changes.
As a small business, the way you spend your time is critical. So if you do decide to pursue social media, make sure that you have the proper tools to help you succeed. For example, a smartphone makes it incredibly easy for you to update your Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blog accounts.
In today's fast-paced business landscape, you don't have time to get back to the office to engage your customers or react to their online comments. You have to be mobile and equipped at all times or lose that business to your competitors.
Mario Armstrong is a small business technology expert and tech talk show host.
Note: Ideas and concepts shared here are those of the author and not necessarily shared by or endorsed by YP℠.