The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is go online and check Facebook and Twitter. Chances are you, dear reader, and a lot of other people, do the same thing.
These two websites and other social media networks have become an important part of our daily lives that some of us can’t even imagine living without them. In fact, they’ve already been used to great effect by a lot of big businesses out there.
A newfound market has opened up in the past couple of years and it is particularly huge, since just about everyone with Internet connection has at least a Facebook account. And with more and more people owning smartphones, that market is bound to grow even bigger as everybody is online almost everywhere they go.
Because of this, established companies have put in their investments to integrate their traditional marketing campaigns with social media, interacting with their customer base in a wider and more personal scale.
Social Media for the Little Guys
It’s much easier for the Samsungs and the Apples of the world to use social media because they’ve already got massive audiences to start with, not to mention the millions of dollars to hire the best employees and to mobilize their operations. But how can we small businesses owners possibly use social media to our own advantage? We don’t have the same resources or the brand recognition as those companies, and we just do our own thing in our respective areas.
Why Small Businesses Should Enter the Social Media Sphere
- It’s (mostly) free.
This is one of the major reasons why social media is such a hit.Before, getting your product or service out there for people to see required you to spend on print, TV or radio ads. It wasn’t cheap, and it still isn’t.Fortunately, registering a Facebook page, creating a Twitter account or starting up a YouTube page will cost you a grand total of $0. Not bad for small business owners counting every penny they make.
- It is more personal.
Besides costing virtually nothing to start, another good reason social media can work particularly well for small businesses is that it was made first and foremost as a way for people to connect with their friends and family. It’s in the nature of small businesses to create bonds with its customers to survive and eventually thrive.
- It offers easy networking.
That small but loyal following can help you when you give them a quick and easy way to spread word about your business to their own personal networks. In turn, the friends of your friends can join in on the promotion, and the chain can go on almost endlessly. They become your own marketing team growing limitlessly, and you don’t have to pay any of them.
Social Media Use 101
Each social media portal has its own purpose, and we can’t just use all of them as if they were all the same. But let’s just focus on the two biggest platforms today – Facebook and Twitter.
There are 955 million active people on Facebook as of June this year, making it the biggest social media network in the world. People use it to share photos, link to news, send personal messages, invite other people to events, “Like” things they’re interested in, and so much more.
Take the plunge into this sea of nonstop activity by creating a business Page for your company. Fill it with vital information about your products or services and goings on in your business. Give customers a chance to voice out their support or give feedback to products or services by enabling comments and answering them ASAP. You can even start contests to giveaway prizes such as exclusive passes to special events, which you can also integrate on the Page.
With a limit of 140 characters per tweet, it doesn’t sound like you can do much at first glance. But that doesn’t stop the 170 million active Twitter users from sending about 400 million tweets a day. They speak their minds about everything under the sun, from what they had for lunch to what they think of the political climate leading up to the November elections.
As small business owners, you’ll be using Twitter more as a way to update your followers on your products or services, and to directly address questions. You can also start discussions by asking your own questions to your followers, forming closer relationships with each one while getting your name out there if the topic starts trending. Because of the rapid fire stream of information on people’s Twitter feeds, you have to be doubly sure your messages are crystal clear.
Social Media Pitfalls
Now before you start using social media, keep in mind that there are things that you do not want to do for the sake of your business.
Do not self-promote. It might sound completely counter-intuitive, but you have to remember the main reason why people use social media. It’s to make connections, not to go looking for stuff to buy. People will get turned off real quick if they see you constantly peddling your merchandise. Avoid the hard sell at all costs.
Do not be inactive. People’s attention spans are getting shorter with the constant stream of info they get on the Net, so maintaining their interest means constant updates and activities. Letting your business’ Facebook Page or Twitter account idle for days upon days will lose you your hard-earned fans and followers.
Do not get into heated arguments. You won’t be able to please everybody so expect complaints here and there. Some of them might get nasty, but don’t get riled up to the point that you’re spewing the same kind of inappropriate remarks for the rest of your customers to see. Be professional and address their points as politely as possible. Send them a private message where you can help them without getting into trouble. If their comments get out of hand, you can always delete them on Facebook or block the users on Twitter.
Do not let a comment go by without answering it. This is crucial to making your customers feel that you actually care. Of course, there might come a time where you won’t be able to answer each one as other more important matters need attending (specifically running the actual business). Hire someone who can handle the social media aspect of your business to keep your online presence.
Do not hire just anyone to handle your social media accounts. Since the job entails dealing with customers directly, it requires some finesse to avoid getting bad publicity, which can travel incredibly fast online. Get someone who knows how to interact with people properly. They should be briefed accordingly so they’d know what and when to post on your social media accounts.
Social media is the perfect partner to small businesses, expanding our reach to places we’ve never even been in at high-speed without costing us too much. Let’s make good use of it and make a lot more money in the process.