Pay any attention to social media? Think it’s just a pastime to use up your monthly data allotment? Well, it can be just that. But it can also be a good marketing tool, especially for a small business that has a limited budget for marketing. For many very small operations, sometimes even buildiing a website is a step too far. Many small businesses, especially individual sole proprietorships, may not have their own website. Social media platforms can become your de facto website, and make a pretty good stand-in for a small website. This can be especially true if your website is only informational (you aren’t actually using a website to sell products). Also for the provider of services, say legal, writing, etc, social media platforms may be just enough for you.
So what do we mean by social media? Mostly, we’re referring to the usual suspects, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Let’s look first at LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the tamest of all the common platforms. It doesn’t tend to be a place where there is a lot of give and take. There is less interaction, and the tone of the interaction tends to remain at a very professional level. As we know, that isn’t always so true with other social media. At the absolute very least, everyone should have a LinkedIn page for themselves. This serves as an online resume at the very least. Not having a page for yourself would be like not having a listing in the phone book (remember that??) LinkedIn really is a requirement. And it would be a bit odd for someone not to be able to find you there. If you don’t have a website, Facebook offers a way to have a “faux” website. It can provide basic information about your goods and services, and it can be easily updated. Unlike a website, it takes no web skills to change the content of your Facebook page. So at the very least, this is a pretty safe way to get into the shallower waters of social media.
It is important to remember to update your Facebook page. Leaving it to get stale doesn’t send a good message. If you don’t care enough to keep it up to date what does that say about how you run the rest of your business?
Once you have set up a Facebook page, you now have to think about social media as a marketing tool. It is a way to market your goods and services and it offers the opportunity to interact with potential clients. Most other forms of marketing: direct mail, ads, fliers, etc., are all one-directional. Social media lets customers interact with you, and develop a back and forth. This creates relationships and provides you with greater insight into the needs and wants of your potential buyers.
Now that you’ve gone this far, it is time to understand the importance of social media and your responsibility to maintain your presence on whatever sites you select. Social media is ultimately special because of its interactive nature. Your clients and prospects can post questions, observations, and remarks (both good and bad). Because of this, it is important that you consistently monitor your page. If they ask questions, they want answers. If you had a storefront and a customer walked in, you wouldn’t ignore them, would you? Same for social media. Also, each question they ask is not only an opportunity to help them understand how your product or service meets their needs, it is an opportunity to understand features and options that you presently may be overlooking. That can help expand and grow your business and open new target markets.
And that takes us to the part about social media marketing that makes some people a little uneasy. It is not just questions about features and options that can appear on your Facebook or Twitter feed. It can be remarks, and observations, not all of which are going to be positive. Complaints and bad reviews are also going to pop up. One hopes not frequently but they will appear. These have to be handled directly and promptly. Promptness matters because the longer a negative remark goes unaddressed, the more other prospects will see it and take it into consideration. There has been some research suggesting negative reviews carry more weight than positive ones. These things must be handled directly and straightforwardly. If you can find a resolution to a problem, do it. In many cases, the customer may post a follow-up note thanking you. That will be seen by everyone. If you cannot address the problem, be honest about why you cannot meet a certain need. Honesty is always appreciated. The worst thing is ignoring any posts to your social media pages. That is the biggest mistake you can make.
In summary, social media can be a big boon for small businesses. It represents a generally low-budget marketing tool that can be adapted to your specific needs without much tech expertise. However, it does require the commitment to the labor needed to keep the sites active and responsive. You have to determine that you or someone you trust with the responsibility will commit to the daily follow-up needed. In addition, you should determine a policy about how frequently the sites are checked and who has the authority to determine how to respond to posts. In short, no good marketing tool is labor-free, but social media can be a relatively simple marketing tool for a small business.
Some food for thought for you today!