Small businesses have the advantage of an intimate relationship with their customers. From the neighborhood corner mom and pop store to the often-frequented service shops like barber shops and hair salons, small business owners get to know their customers on a personal level.
Technology has changed, but the truth of today’s business world is that the major impact of successful small business, human-to-human contact, has not. In that same manner, small businesses can use technology to expand their relationship or to discover new relationships with potential customers.
Despite the adage that technology has eliminated personal relationships, data suggests that the opposite is true. According to Mike Ewing at Hubspot, customers are 71% more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals.
To maximize the efforts of a social media campaign, it is important for a small business to understand its customers and how they are using social media. Obviously, businesses catering to older customers may not need as much social media interaction as a business catering to millennials. That does not mean, however, that there is no market. In fact, according to Tommy Whyer’s article, “56 percent of online adults over 65 . . .[have] Facebook accounts.”
Other forms of Social Media are not as popular among older adults. An older study at the Pew Research Center showed that there are significant drop-offs for older adults when it comes to using other social media platforms, such as Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Therefore, Facebook seems to be the preferred delivery method for interacting with social media for older adults.
However, that is NOT the case for younger customers, meaning a true social media campaign must tap into the demographics that best fit the business’s needs. For example, teens and young adults are far more likely to engage in Snapchat or Instagram than they are to use Facebook or Twitter. Finding the right balance of demographics is the key.
So, how does a small business use social media to its advantage? Here are 3 Tips to help small businesses grow through an interactive social media platform.
1. BE HUMAN
One of the problems businesses have found in the past is that social media is not the place to sound salesy or be like another medium of advertising.
Steve Tulman’s article, “How Taco Bell Is Winning at Social Media Marketing,” mentions how Taco Bell to a holistic approach to its social media marketing campaign. That was achieved not only by connecting with its customers (more on that below), but by embracing the human aspect of social media. According to Tulman, when “a majority of the [social media] responses may might as well have come from robots,” then that social media platform “isn’t going to inspire a plethora of customers to hit the follow button.”
Indeed, not only is it important to connect to the correct demographic, but to actually engage with those customers and potential customers on a human level. It is important to learn customers’ needs and avoid social media faux pas practices like using the platform as a self-promotion tool.
2. BE ACTIVE
Engaging in social media for small businesses also is a time-consuming practice. Messages should be delivered in a timely manner. That means, by using social media, the small business will need to check the accounts multiple times each day, and then respond immediately! It needs to be part of the daily routine.
The problem sometimes comes with the responsibilities that interaction requires, including the major problem of the time needed to interact while also running the business itself. That’s where hiring an employee or an outside firm that dedicates itself to marketing online can help.
Another related factor in being active is to respond to both the positive and negative interactions. While some people may leave a ‘like’ on a company’s social media channel, most users will use it for relevant questions and service or product complaints. Therefore, being active also means understanding that social media can serve as a customer service tool that is more convenient for the typical customer than sending an email or calling a phone number.
According to this 2012 poll, 42% of those polled expected a response on social media within an hour of posting. While that may not always be a realistic amount of time to respond, know that customers’ expectations may require the small business owner to be quite active, especially when the business is looking to grow its base.
3. GIVE CUSTOMERS A VOICE
Again with Taco Bell and how it has become a model for social media, even for small businesses. In Lisa Lacy’s article, “The Taco Bell Guide to Social Media Dominance,” she points to two factors that made a huge difference in how successful Taco Bell could be n social media. For one, according to Lacy, Taco Bell listened to its fans and adapted its social media towards what its fans want. Another large factor is that the product is the message.
Even though Taco Bell is a large corporation, it used the act of involving its customers in a manner beyond simple customer service. Taco Bell approached social media like it was one of its own fans. For example, instead of taking the perfect shots of food that we often see from fast food restaurants, Taco Bell started to show real shots of food and how it looks when the consumer sees it. Not that perfect tortilla shell with measured dabs of sour cream, cube-shaped tomatoes, paper-shredded lettuce, and evenly-browned ground beef.
More importantly, Taco Bell involved its customers, showing them consuming and interacting with the products and brand. That’s where small businesses can better understand how to help their own businesses through a similar plan. If indeed 71% of all new sales come through word-of-mouth and social media sharing, showing customers interacting, consuming, using, participating in, or any other activity related to the small business can only help to push their goal of growing the business.
There are multiple factors when it comes to marketing a small business. In years past, before the explosion of the internet, especially related to social media, marketing was as straightforward as advertising. Word of mouth was helpful but limited because people dod not have the same access to each other that we have now. Now, it’s as easy as a sentence and a click of a mouse or a push of a smartphone button to send that same word-of-mouth information out to multiple people simultaneously.
For a small business, understanding the value of social media must go beyond thinking of social media in simplistic ways. Social media can be a powerful tool to truly grow a business when used correctly. From getting more people interested in the business to factors such as search engine optimization (SEO), more interested eyes, thus potential new and repeat customers are available through a properly-channeled social media effort.
Search engine optimization has also been affected by social media. However, according to Google’s Matt Cutts, likes and retweets do not factor into where a website will rank in a search, there are other SEO factors.
Among those factors, customers who share information about your company can lead to more people attaching a link to your website or social media. According to the article, “What are the SEO benefits of social media?” that means “those views of your content on social media will result in other content creators citing your content in their articles. Your content has just earned links, which has a direct impact on search rankings.”
Links to a small business’s site starts to build brand authority, which further helps in the right people finding that business, thus growth. Social media is almost a must in developing a business persona, helping more people learn about and engage with a small business, and building a brand that will last.