Effective online marketing is not just about having a swish website; social media marketing is the latest must-do for any small business – not to mention, a lot of the time it’s free! Furthermore, it allows you to reach a global audience and communicate with your customers on a more friendly and approachable basis (but be careful: social media also allows any mistakes on your part, or negative customer experience, to be publicised at incredible speed!).
The power of social media is greatly undervalued by SMEs. In August 2011, according to the SME Omnibus of 500 small-business decision-makers by IFF Research, only 5% say that they are using Facebook for marketing their business and exploiting it fully. So if you’re able to implement an efficient – albeit basic – social media strategy, you’re already going to be standing out from the crowd. We run through the main bases that need to be covered when it comes to social media.
Even if you’re not on Twitter in a personal capacity, you’re bound to have heard the words “tweet”, “trending” or the infamous “hashtag” bounded about in everyday conversations. Twitter is not just for chatting with friends, however, it’s now a recognised business tool that enables businesses to connect with their customers on an exciting – you’ve guessed it – social level.
Building up a substantial, but relevant, horde of Twitter followers will provide you with a target audience to promote your new offers to – and, what’s more, offers your customers or clients an opportunity to give you direct feedback. For this reason, Twitter becomes an effective customer-service and PR tool. If someone is singing your praises, for example, then their followers are likely to see this and if you retweet (RT) this, it spreads this positivity across the web. And, in the unfortunate event that someone has vented a complaint via Twitter, it’s quick and easy for you to get in touch to address their query.
Jamie Kenny, Head of Strategy with The Engine Group (a company that specialises in social media campaigns) comments on the positive effect active and innovative social media can have: “Social Media offers SMEs lots of opportunities to grow their business. Whether it is to use buzz monitoring for insight, to outreach to bloggers for PR purposes or to create loyalty through creating online communities. A great example of an SME using social brilliantly is the way Kogi – a Korean BBQ taco truck – has used Twitter to scale its business in the USA. By tweeting about where the trucks will be, they’ve been able to gain more customers and invest in new trucks. They currently have over 90,000 followers.”
Creating a business page on Facebook is quick, easy and reasonably hassle-free – but make sure it’s a business page you’re setting up, not a profile or group; this is one of the most common errors for small businesses tackling the cyber sphere of Facebook.
Fashioning a landing page for your page can help add that extra sense of professionalism and will encourage users to “like” your page. Remember: the Facebook community can be as fickle as they wish; you need to give them a reason to continue “liking” your page so be sure to offer them captivating – and authentic – content.
If you’re not already familiar with LinkedIn; it’s a social media site built for business. In brief, it allows you to connect with people that matter to you and reach out to those that you think may be important for your business (although this does not mean it’s an adding free-for-all; only make connects that are relevant and professional). It offers the opportunity to create a group for your business, as well as to put out questions to large audiences in order to – hopefully – generate some thought-provoking responses and create a conversation at the heart of which you can position your business.
RSS: Building up a strong brand identity across social media is about maximising the links between the various platforms at your disposal. It’s no good having a Facebook page and a Twitter account if they’re not connected through an RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed, which essentially delivers content through posts or tweets as it is published. Furthermore, it’s imperative to include social media buttons on your site (and perhaps even a live Twitter feed) to encourage traffic to your social media accounts.
Words: Jessie Bland
This article was first published in Your Business with James Caan in January 2012.