Marketing a small business using social networks is hard work. Social media can move so quickly that the top trending topics on Twitter could change many times just while you are reading this page; can you keep on top of that? Far from paying social media marketing companies, we are going to look at what you can do by yourself to help the social media work for you.
Even for a small business, there should be a social media marketing plan if you will use Facebook and Twitter as advertising mediums. Far from plugging SEO and keywords all day long, we are going to look at how customers can help you spread the word of your small business on social media and do a lot of the hard work for you. Let's face it, most big companies now have a Chief Marketing Officer in their senior management; can you afford one? but can you think like one?
Social Media Buttons for Your Website
If you already have a website up and running then letting your customers spread the word independently is great. Allowing your customers to promote FROM your website is even better though and this is easy by adding social media plug-ins to your web design. Social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest already offer code for you to add their button to your website; but if you use one of the popular content management systems such as WordPress then you will find lots of social media plug-ins already available making the job even easier.
These social media links can vary from simply "liking" your company on Facebook to posting a recommendation for your product on Twitter; using a variety of the links which are specific to the page will increase the ability for your customers to customise their advert for your company.
Influence Customers using Social Media
Do you have a product that is coming to market? If you know what it's core use is then market it in advance. If you use a social media client such as TweetDeck or HootSuite you can target your social media marketing even when you are with a client. Using one of the many social media dashboards any small business can pre-schedule posts for a variety of social networks whether it be the night before, or between customers. Your customers will then be able to see them when you know they want to see them, whether it be during their lunch breaks or when they are about to see your product on Dragons Den!
A small business should also know if their new product will be popular; if it is then tell the customer it is there before they buy it from another supplier!
One thing to avoid though. A report in the Wall Street Journal questioned an online travel agents tactics when they found that Orbitz would offer customers a cheaper recommendation of rooms to those browsing from a PC to an Apple Mac. Even an established business would have difficulty processing the amount of data needed to make such a media campaign effective; I would not even consider it.
Are you in a business where the work of viral media would do your online advertising? This is not just silly videos and pictures, but all kinds of ways to send your information and web page to other people.
Let's take the example of Google+ who let you upload and tag pictures on the latest in social networking sites. If you have a photograph and the person you want to "tag" on it is not on Google+ then you can invite them by giving Google+ that persons e-mail address. This is a very basic example of viral marketing and again; if you are using WordPress for the basis of your website then e-mail widgets are available.
It is unlikely that a small business will get an internet viral hit with a unique and original video (for example) but word of mouth can spread like wildfire over a great new website.
Don't Forget Your Traditionalists
Even if your small business starts to take off on-line you must still remember your more traditional customers, either by putting the fact that you are on Twitter on your printed literature or in your shop window. Don't even rush to withdraw printed catalogues just because you now have a social media campaign as not every demographic has the want or finance to be online and it is unlikely that you will want to ostracise a proportion of your existing customers.
Have a Social Media Plan
What do you want from your social media marketing? Even some big local businesses don't know; many small businesses know even less. Your social media strategy should be almost clear from the outset whether it is product advertising, customer service or driving people to your website. Not everyone does all three, but many do all three badly; you would have to question whether that harms your business or not.
One example of this could be a bus company on the south coast of England who I won't embarrass. They have a social media marketing strategy that each operating area manages it's own social networks, but there was no overbearing corporate policy on how to manage each social network. The result was that two adjacent parts of the same company had two different Facebook accounts. One used theirs for customer service, apologising for disrupted services, real-time travel updates; the other only ever posted pre-planned information such as timetable changes and special offers.
One of the two was openly appreciated by their customers, the other only received publicly Facebook complaints.
Most active small business social media accounts will end up with a customer service element to it. How the small business manages this will ultimately show whether the customers see the social media account as informational or customer service and how much extra time or resources will need to be put to keep success going.
Have a Successful Social Media in Small Business
Like the big companies, some small business owners will see the media of their company change from a shop front to a web-store. A social media marketing plan is essential for all businesses that want to go online, even the small business; it is not all social media agencies and social network consultants though, you can do it yourself, saving costs and gaining customers easily.