Is it a case of trying to keep up with the tweeters or can you simply not face having a profile on Facebook? Love it or loathe it social media has transformed the way that business is carried out. A recent study carried out by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK discovered that as many as 80% of customers admitted to being more inclined to buy from brands that had an ‘attractive’ presence on social media. Similarly the benefits of social media are extolled by those advising small businesses on cost-effective ways to achieve growth – such as this rather handy review of ‘10 ways to grow your business by working smarter’.
What can social media bring to your company and what do you need to do to avoid making common mistakes? Using real life examples and offering straightforward advice about how to implement an effective but manageable strategy here is the small business guide to social media.
Social media can provide effective ways to reach new markets, build trust, convert prospective customers and deliver customer service. Here’s how some UK small businesses have deployed it.
Engaging customers through her Facebook page Claire Mitchell, the founder of The Girls Mean Business, was able to transform a local business coaching venture into a highly profitable international eBook and webinar business. Her strategy was simple – to always seek to involve people by posting questions, sharing quandaries, asking for advice and being honest about what has and has not worked. Such social activities immediately hit a chord with her target audience who are often working alone from home and need to feel part of a wider community.
Adam Ball owns a design company called Concept Cupboard and uses Twitter to reach potential new clients. He sees it as a free platform to let people know who he is and what he does. It is an ice-breaker that introduces him to new partnerships and commissions.
Kimberley Waldron, co-founder of SkyParlour PR, has found LinkedIn to be a sales tool par excellence that can introduce new contacts who are pre-qualified thanks to the amount you can find about people from their profiles and the people they know. It also helps that she can qualify herself thanks to recommendations from previous clients.
Rebecca Mortby, co-founder of Greenfinch Graduations, shares hints and tips for international students planning their graduation on the picture posting site Pinterest. She uses it not just to create awareness but also to further relationships by using private boards to share ideas with our clients and their families.
Lyndsey Haskell, owner of the gardening retail site What You Sow, uses images on Instagram to help establish her brands identity and create an aspirational lifestyle image – rather than just post product shots – to set her site apart from others.
Starting to use social media should be treated as seriously as launching a new product or entering a new market. Many small businesses struggle because they simply start posting on sites with no clear strategy or objectives. Here are some classic pitfalls to avoid.
Who do you wish to reach and how will you do it? What do you wish to achieve? Don’t forget that you need to be prepared to handle this internally with roles clearly defined and plans communicated.
The more commitment you have the likelier you are to succeed.
Start from raising awareness of your social media presence from existing customers by promoting it on email signatures, literature, business cards and websites. Have a content strategy in mind that does not just consist of product or sales messages. Always respond quickly to questions and comments you receive and make sure it is clear who is responsible for doing this in your business.
Social media management needs to be part of your daily routine not something you turn to if you have a spare half hour.
If you are engaging in other forms of advertising and marketing social media should initially supplement rather than replace this.
As with all business ventures you need to approach social media with your eyes wide open but it is clear to many that the social media party is in full swing and not all your customers are waiting to save the last dance for you.