Although you might think that social media is just a way for people to show off and moan about their lives, for businesses it can actually be an extremely lucrative online channel.
Traditionally for small companies, it’s often word of mouth that brings in new business, as happy customers recommend you to their friend and families. Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is one of the best types of marketing there is because it doesn’t cost you a penny – you’ve earned it by doing a good job.
According to Nielsen’s latest Global Trust in Advertising Report, 92% of customers trust recommendations from family and friends above any other form of advertising. While this is great news for SMEs, what if you could build up even more business using the 21st century equivalent of WOMM? Yes, I’m talking about social media marketing.
The social voice of earned media
What you need to remember before you dismiss social media, is that nowadays your customers are constantly connected to the internet – in fact more than 70% of adults own a smartphone, a highly significant amount – so this means that you and your business also need to be permanently switched on. Baby photos and cat videos aside, there is far more to social media than meets the eye.
You might think that social media is completely unnecessary for your business and you’re better off without it, but people are going to talk about your business whether you like it or not, so you might as well join in and give them a platform to sing your praises and air their grievances – at least this way you can monitor and respond to it. Pimlico Plumbers have almost 8,000 Twitter followers due to their mix of business, charity and fun tweets and these are shared by hundreds of people.
By using social media you are opening up your business to thousands of potential customers. Strangers race to offer help and advice to the people they follow and everything you post online has the chance of ‘going viral’ if enough people share it! Plus, social media is free advertising for your business, so what’s not to like?
Social media is content driven
Now there’s no point using social media if you haven’t got anything worth talking about. That’s why it’s important to back up any social posts with a link to a blog post, article or any company news that’s on your site. This way you’ll drive potential customers to your website, increase your site’s traffic and therefore its rankings, as well as reach a wider audience for your business.
Plus, if you’re directing people to interesting content on your website they’ll be more likely to continue interacting with you on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. and will also trust your expertise more.
So what can you use social media for?
- Increasing brand awareness – social media lets you show prospective and existing customers who you are and what you do.
- Promoting your website – use social media to link to recent blog posts, company news or offers on your site.
- Showing off your customer service – see what your customers are saying about your business and respond to them directly. This helps to build customer relationships.
- Driving more sales – run exclusive social media promotions to engage with potential customers. Deals are frequently shared on social media so you’ll reach even more customers.
- Telling your story – make a short video about your company and put it on YouTube. Video content is extremely shareable and YouTube gets more than 1 billion unique visitors every month so you’ll be able to reach hundreds, if not thousands of potential customers.
- Divulging your personality – social media should never be entirely sales focused, so share some humorous posts about your industry, or some photos of your staff doing their job. As long as it is relevant to your business, this helps to give your company a personality.
Social media never sleeps
The main thing to remember about social media is that it is never quiet and you do need to keep on top of it. As I mentioned before, social (or earned) media marketing is actually the 21st century version of word of mouth marketing – instead of just gossiping over their garden fence, people now share their experiences on social media 24/7.
Obviously the sooner you can reply to customers the better, especially if it’s a complaint, but if this isn’t possible don’t worry about it. Just make sure you respond within 24 hours as customers may be willing to give you a second chance if the problem is resolved quickly. Excellent customer service can actually turn negative experiences into positive ones and increase customer retention rates.
What you need to work out is how your business can use earned media alongside traditional offline word of mouth. If used together, your business will have an extremely powerful marketing strategy.
 A survey of more than 28,000 people in 56 countries. http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2012/global-trust-in-advertising-and-brand-messages.html