Social media is present whether you are on or offline. How many times do you see “Like Us On Facebook” signs at local businesses or hear “Follow us on Twitter” commands from television and radio personalities? And just as present are social media gurus telling businesses of all sizes that they need to get in on the social media action or be left out in the cold.
Despite the constant barrage of commands to get your business on social media, I meet many business owners ask the question, “Does Facebook even work?”
The answer to that question is simple and complicated all at the same time. The short answer is yes. Yes you should be there because yes, it works. But it doesn’t always work overnight, which is often hard for some business owners to deal with, especially local small businesses who are used to marketing through television, radio, newspaper, direct mail, and coupon marketing. They like the old standbys and they like the fact that when a new customer comes in to the store with a coupon, they are seeing direct results from their efforts.
Social media works a little bit differently. With social media, you can see your fans and followers increase, but are you seeing them translate from online fans to offline customers? Often times the answer is no. And unfortunately, many business owners abandon their campaigns before they’ve even had time to get off the ground.
So how can you use social media to actually benefit your business?
One objection that small businesses have to social media is that social media takes away from personal relationships. Well, if more and more relationships are becoming virtual, you better be part of that!
What’s the number one reason people get on social media? To see what their friends are doing and saying. So tell them what you are up to! Ninety two percent of all Twitter users share content they find useful or interesting. If you aren’t posting anything useful or interesting, no one will share your stuff. So the more stuff your fans and followers share, the more your business will be in front of people.
Additionally, 40% of Twitter users rarely post anything themselves. They use it strictly to see what’s going on in the world and in their neighborhoods. It’s the newsfeed of the new generation. Make sure you’re talking every day to those people who may not talk back, but do read (and share) what you’re saying.
And for those who do talk back, you can engage them one on one. If someone takes the time to post a comment or question on your Facebook page – answer it. And answer it in a timely fashion. Internet users are used to instant gratification, so make sure you’re on top of everything. You can even offer special deals and offers to your users. A fun way lots of people use Twitter is to have followers retweet or ask a question in a set period of time. For example, you may post an update that says you’ll choose a winner of a gift certificate to your service at random from the first 20 people to say something nice about your store. Or for those who re-tweet a message from you for the next two hours, you’ll choose three winners of a small prize. It keeps people on their toes and keeps them talking about you and interacting with you.
Become an Authority
Social media and blogs help establish your business as a go-to in your niche – especially for local small business.
Businesses provide services that people can’t (or don’t want to) do themselves. Landscapers, hair salons, HVAC repair, fitness trainers, and more have a wealth of knowledge to share with clients and potential clients. Use your blog and your social media updates to provide real information that people can use. This will establish you and your business as the go-to in your community.
Remember those coupons that local businesses love so much? If you want to quantify your social media efforts, offer your fans and followers an exclusive deal. You can also post your direct mail offers online, to help maximize that effort. You may find, that in time, you’re spending less – or even nothing – on direct mailings.
Spy on the other Guys
If your competitors are on social media, you can easily stay on top of their offers, promotions and what they are doing. It’s free and easy intel.
Level the Playing Field
I’ve spent a lot of time working in Search Engine Optimization and I’ve seen more frustrated business owners than I can shake a stick at. There is only one #1 spot in Google for a search result and you can do everything correctly by SERP standards and you still find your business isn’t showing up on the first page. SEOs will tell you that you need to spend more money on their services, but you can get around it with social media.
If search results aren’t driving people to your website, then you have to get them another way. If you are active on social media and if you’ve taken an active role in getting your business covered in local news, people will find you.
Don’t Forget to Send People to Your Website
All of this being said, don’t forget to drive your fans and followers back to your website. It’s important to be active and productive on social media, but don’t do so at the expense of your main site. The point is to generate customers and you can’t do that without sending people to your site, which is your storefront to the world. Keep your blog current, your products and services updated and make sure that you have a user-friendly site.
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