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Social media for small businesses: is it worth it?

Natalie Copuroglu
By Natalie Copuroglu on January 28th, 2011

Passionate about social media. Curious and eager to learn. Always up for a good debate. Love people, digital marketing, web 2.0, open source and cool gadgets. Come say Hi/follow me @natalietweetie

in Social Media Marketing | Comments Off

You’re hearing everywhere that businesses should have a social media strategy, that every week a new social media tool comes out (“what, you are not on Quora yet?”), that social media will be time consuming and that it may not pay off…in sum, social media seems quite complex and you are not sure if it’s worth investing your time in it. Let’s have a look at some benefits you can get from using social media for your small business.

1. Engage with your existing customers

By giving your brand a voice, social media allows you to get closer to your customers. For example, you can let your customers know if you have a special deal, what new products you have developed and so on. Chances are, your customers are already online, looking for you or already talking about you. They may have questions too, and by responding to them, you will create relationships. And with relationships comes trust. Sounds too good to be true? Successful examples abound.

In just a few months, the Secret Society Of Vegans (SSOV), a small vegan shop in London (UK), built a strong base of followers on Twitter. By sharing photos of their delicious cakes and giving special deals to its Twitter fans, it attracted new customers to their shop.

 

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2. Gain Google, Bing and Yahoo’s trust and gain traffic

As you probably know, if you want your website to be popular among search engines, you need good SEO, pages which have interesting content and pages linking to you. You can get links either by paying for them or for free. This is where social media steps in. A natural way to obtain links is to have other people (on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc) talk about you. But just by setting up profiles on these different platforms, with a link and an appropriate anchor text (with keywords of your choosing), you will create inbound links to your main site. Social media helps you get natural links for your website and it’s free, so why not take advantage of it?

3. Build brand management

Opinion websites are becoming very popular: for example, Yelp reviews are now integrated on Google Maps. With that tool, you can identify initiators and influencers and reach out to them by acknowledging and thanking them: building “customer love” is important because customers do not just recommend the company to their friends, they insist on their friends using the company. By having a social media presence, you will be able to respond to customers’ fears and concerns about your products. Even negative feedback can be constructive as you can learn which areas of your business you need to improve. By building more positive sentiment around your brand with your online presence, new customers will be less likely to find negative comments when searching for your business on a search engine.

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4. Use social media as an innovation tool

Numerous small businesses have used social media successfully as a way to innovate and create new products. Indeed, you can use the different platforms not only to ask customers what they think of your products but also to ask them what they want from your products.

This is what Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company did when they asked bloggers to create a new flavor of Java. More than 1,500 bloggers participated in the project, the company got thousands of mentions for the campaign on the Internet, and traditional media also covered the story. The campaign was a real success which brought the company extra traffic and new customers.

 

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5. Have a competitive edge

You may not be on social media websites now, but what about your competitors? If they are, they may be “stealing” away your customers by having friendly conversations with them, sharing photos of their smiling team on Facebook or Flickr and sharing great link and content on their brand new blog. Because your competitors will also be using the same social media platforms as you, your business will need to find a way to distinguish itself. For example, The Marsh, a café in San Francisco, successfully integrates their offline and online marketing campaign: they offer free drinks for the mayor on Foursquare. Because of this initiative, the café got a lot of attention from blogs as well as traditional media such as CNN. Your social media strategy can be your competitive advantage: customers want brands to be more personal, fun and interactive, and social media gives you the tools to achieve this.

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Remember, reaping the benefits of your social media efforts won’t happen overnight: it will take time, 6 months at least, sometimes longer.

Do you find social media useful for your small business? Have you seen any results from it? Stay tuned and watch out for our next article about social media tips for small businesses!


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