it’s no surprise that business marketing practices have drastically changed in the last decade. it is now crucial for all businesses to maintain a web presence and embrace the various social media outlets that are available (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc).
it can be a complicated process getting involved in the social media frenzy, but we are lucky to have the wisdom and advice of orli sharaby from the award winning digital marketing agency 360i. orli shares with us some helpful tips on which social media outlets to choose and how to best utilize them. thanks orli for your insight!–stephanie
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Social media is the ultimate connector. Ten years ago, you may have told 5 people about the amazing cupcake you had at the new shop that opened up downstairs from your office. Five years ago, you might have written it up on your blog, which if you were lucky had 50 readers (Perez Hilton also could have raved about an amazing cupcake and influenced hundreds of thousands of people in one fell swoop, but who wants to be Perez anyway). But now, with one click of a button you can rave about the delicious cupcake you just ate on Facebook, and dozens or even hundreds of your friends – who probably live and work near you, and thus in the vicinity of the cupcake shop – will get the tip. You can also post your mini-review to Twitter, upload a mouthwatering picture to Flickr, check in to the place on Foursquare, or review it on Yelp – potentially influencing hundreds if not thousands of people to beeline it for your new favorite cupcake shop. Of course, a bad experience can inspire a similarly impassioned response.
Social media provides incredible opportunities for small businesses to gain scale like never before, but it also takes a lot of work. Here are some tips and tricks of the trade that will help you leverage the potential of social media platforms.
Set up shop: Having a website is essential at this point, but it’s just not enough. Consumers are looking to engage with brands like never before, and creating a presence on the key social networking sites is important to show them you’re open to connecting. The great thing is, most social media is free to set up, so the investment is only one of time and energy. And even if you don’t have the resources to engage yet, consider claiming your brand name in social media spaces. If you don’t take it, someone will; better to play offense now rather than defense later.
Choose the right platforms: Most small businesses will find that it makes sense to create a Facebook page – the large majority of their customers have Facebook profiles and are spending lots of time there – even becoming fans with their favorite brands on a scale nobody could have predicted. But does Twitter make sense for everyone? For the taco van that changes location every day, Twitter is a great way to let your hardcore fans know where you’re going to be in real time. But if you’re struggling with what to say on a daily or even hourly basis, Twitter might not be right for your business. Still other businesses will find that niche social networks can help them connect with a very specific type of consumer which drives their business. For example, Stylecaster for fashion designers, DeviantART for artists and designers, Curbly for furniture designers, or BakeSpace for chefs.
Leverage your biggest fans: If you’ve recently launched your business, you may think you don’t have any fans yet. Not true! Your friends and family have the potential to be powerful allies in spreading the word to their own social graphs. And if you’ve already got some loyal existing customers, even better. Let them know that you’re trying to spread the word. Give them a special discount code that they can send to all their friends, let them know about a new product before it comes into the store, or ask them for advice about what color to paint the walls. They’ll appreciate the extra love and share that around.
Keep the conversation going: Managing your business’s social media presences takes work. Your social footprint (the sum total of all your social media profiles/presences) will be practically useless to you if you don’t keep it updated on a regular basis. Take a Facebook page, for example. Setting a page up with a few photos and status updates is a great start, and you might gain a few fans. But that’s where the real fun begins. Each time you upload content or post a status message, it will be broadcast to your fans’ homepages, where they can be reminded of your business and how great it is, consume the content you provide, engage with it, and even share it with all their friends, expanding your reach exponentially. So in order to make the most of social media, keep the conversation fresh and exciting.
Monitor the buzz: It really sucks when someone is talking behind your back and you don’t know it. The great thing about social media is, you can eavesdrop on what people are saying, even in places where you don’t have a presence – which makes it much easier to catch potential issues before they become a real problem. If a customer complains on Twitter about having a bad experience at your store, you can reach out to her and try to address her issue – potentially turning her into an advocate instead of a disgruntled customer. Monitoring your brand’s buzz can also help you identify what people like about your products that you may not have realized, for example customers love your peanut butter cupcakes and your chocolate ones, but wish you’d make peanut butter/chocolate! Bottom line, social media can be a very powerful CRM tool.
Social media can certainly be daunting, but remember: we’re social people! If you have a Facebook page yourself, if you’ve ever watched a video on YouTube, if you’ve commented on a blog post… you’re already participating in social. Taking it to the next level with your small business takes work, but can reap bountiful rewards.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Orli Sharaby is an Associate Director of Social Marketing at 360i, where she develops integrated social marketing strategies for a range of large fashion, retail, lifestyle and CPG brands. In a previous life, Orli was a fashion and style writer for several regional magazines in Prague, Czech Republic and fashion editor at PSFK.com