How can Social Media efforts pay for Small Business?
I recently read about a study that stated about 45% of the 2,000 surveyed small businesses reported that they are now using some form of social media. I find this percentage to be surprising and a tad optimistic.
Why? I am a big advocate of research, but I’m also well aware of how improperly posed questions can lead to some faulty conclusions. Based upon my personal experience working with a variety of small businesses and how their eyes roll back into their heads or their noses scrunch up like they just smelled some bad cheese when one mentions Social Media, I would estimate that there are far fewer small business owners actively involved in the activity.
Signing up for Facebook and Twitter accounts does not require a lot of savvy. Understanding, however, how to use these marketing tools to drive traffic to one’s brick and mortar, online business or to pick-up the phone does require some thought, commitment and precious time to produce any real returns to the bottom line.
First let’s answer the obvious question: What is Social Media?
Social Media includes blogging, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn along with hundreds of other interactive sites and services that have popped up on the Internet in the last few years. These tools represent Web 2.0, an ability for readers to comment and/or vote, to participate, to like, to raise their hand and express their reactions to a product, a position or a brand. These are today’s marketing tools. They have replaced yesterday’s newspaper and outdated resource guides like the Yellow Pages.
So what types of small business can use Social Media to grow their business?
Regardless of your business – doctor, lawyer, dry cleaner, retailer, baker or candle stick maker – your marketing objectives are the same, which is to be wherever your customers congregate. Today, that is on Social Media.
But isn’t Social Media just for the young crowd?
Definitely not! One of the fastest growing user segments of Social Media are those who are over 55 years of age. Think about it. Boomers are retiring and they have time on their hands, some have more time than they want. Many are grandparents seeking for ways to connect with their children and their grandchildren. People seeking jobs have to be on the Internet and utilizing Social Media tools such as Facebook and Linkedin in order to make more connections and find another job. These marketing tools are no longer limited to teenage girls and boys. These tools are universal and global in their appeal and usage.
So, how do can a small business use Social Media?
From a marketing perspective, social media is…well…it is media. Some of it is used to push information out to an audience, while other media tools are used to pull self-selected parties into a blog, a web site or a store front . It is knowing how to use the marketing tools in combination that delivers the payoff.
Here are three ways that you can make social media pay for your business:
1. Builds a Community around your brand (company/store)
Social Media provides several pathways for businesses to get out there and speak to your current and potential customers. But as with all marketing tactics, social media is far more effective when used as part of a wider campaign and not just a one-time fling.
Let’s pretend we are a small business retailer of women’s clothes and we want to introduce our new Fall/Winter collection.
First we would email current customers of the upcoming collection and why they will want to come to see it. In the email, we ask these customers to ‘like’ the email on their Facebook page, ‘tweet’ on their Twitter account or email to other friends. On our small business’ Facebook Page, we post photos of the new line and perhaps schedule an event to pull our fans and followers into visit our store to preview. We also use our blog to announce the new pieces as their arrive and to create additional excitement. These postings also re-appear on our company Facebook and Twitter accounts. We respond to questions that our customers ask on our blog or twitter account.
When combined, all of the social media tools work in combination to facilitate engagement and interaction with your company’s community of supporters and their friends.
As the community grows through social media, one can use it to “reward” fans and followers with exclusive promotional offers creating a strong branded community of patrons.
2. Social Media Marketing Generates Leads
Many question the lead generation power of social media marketing, but according to a recent report from Perfomics and ROI Research, the level of influence of social networking sites is surprisingly large. Here are just some of the results from the survey:
Among Facebook users who have connected with a brand on the site:
- 46% say they are likely to talk about or recommend a product
- 44% say they are likely to purchase a product
- 37% say they are likely to link to an ad for a product
- 27% say they are likely to post an ad for a product
Among Twitter users, for example:
- 44% say they are receptive to promotions and offers
- 44% say they have recommended a product on Twitter
- 39% have discussed a product on Twitter
The good news? This influence will continue to grow over time. So those in a lead intensive industry – insurance, real estate, financial planning – social media, which can be targeted, can facilitate in generating
3. Social Media delivers Customer Feedback
Rather than cost prohibitive research, small business can tap into their communities to test new product ideas, new pricing schemes or new messages. This customer feedback loop saves them additional time, money and resources that would be otherwise wasted if not measured against the online community created through social media marketing.
How else can ROI be measured?
It is rare to find a small business that tracks the ROI of their current media expenditures and since all of the social media marketing tools are basically free, is there any reason to track ROI? Yes, there is. Many a small business cannot afford the time to devote to a social media campaigns, so they may need to outsource these efforts, which will cost some money. There will be those who do carve out the time to create and maintain their social media communities. In both instances, it would be good to know if the time and/or dollars invested are delivering to the bottom line. The good news is that there are many built-in mechanisms as well as services such as Google Analytics and HootSuite that will assist in keeping an eye on social media ROI.
Bottom line? Marketing through Social Media pays for small business and it pays big. Almost all are free services that simply require an investment of time and commitment to reap giant rewards.
What do you think?