5 Best Ways to Use Social Media to Market Your Small Business

5 Best Ways to Use Social Media to Promote Your Small Business

Now more than ever the business market is flooded with available options for consumers. Businesses must use new and inventive ways to stand out from competitors. One way to do this is through social media platforms. Below are a few tips to start strategically utilizing social media.

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1). Create a blog

Blogs are a great way to interact and collaborate with customers. A blog can be a platform to promote your business and give customers insight into your company.  Blogs also allow for an informal space in which customers and business owners can share common interests and interact. Blogs are a great platform to introduce upcoming sales and specials. Additionally, blogs can be a way to share events and industry related information with customers. A good example of this is the blog of Boston portrait studio Bellini. This blog shares photographs from recent portrait sessions (product promotion) and also personal messages from the photographer ranging from session reviews to new years resolutions. The blog also provides useful links to Bellini’s Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram. It is truly a valuable resource for customers.

2). Sign up for Twitter, You Tube, Pinterest, Instagram and any other popular forms of social media. But, beware that you are not wasting resources targeting the wrong customers.

It is helpful to utilize a variety of social media platforms. Customers do not just go to one place to communicate. As a business, you should be aware of popular forms of social media and try your best to use several ways to reach customers. One pitfall of this is the possibility of spreading your resources too thin or targeting the wrong group of clients. Additionally,  companies should make an effort to be aware of the forms of social media popular with their target demographic.  It would be a waste of time to create and maintain an Instagram account if your target demographic is 50-60 year olds who more frequently use other forms of social media, like Facebook. Furthermore, social media platforms require regular monitoring/maintenance and the dedication of many hours. If your company does not have a plethora of time and man hours, it should stick to a few forms of social media that can be maintained regularly. Companies should be sure to focus on the value of the content rather than just the amount of content.

3). Be honest and positive in your communication

It is important to create a sense of trust with customers. This will help with brand image and client retention. One way to do this is to resist the urge to remove negative reviews. Instead, respond to these reviews with comments and suggestions. Negative reviews are an important part of customer feedback. If there is a problem with the product, this gives you an opportunity to identify the problem and work to correct it. Another way to relay a positive image to customers is to communicate using relatable language and terms. Customers do not want to feel like they are talking to a robot.

Most importantly, it is essential to avoid alienating customers with negative comments and offensive posts. There have been companies that have nearly destroyed their brand image due to a social media mishap. One of these companies is clothing retailer Black Milk. Omar Akhtar explained this incident in his recent The Hub article: Black Milk Clothing is really, really bad at social media. According to Akhtar, Black Milk posted a picture of two girls. The one on the left was representative of what the poster imagined themselves to be.  She was wearing heavy makeup and posed in a sexy R2-D2 outfit. The second picture was to represent what the poster looked like in reality. This girl was homely, wearing sweats and glasses. The problem was that the pictures went against Black Milk’s brand philosophy which promoted positive body image. It was obvious that one girl was preferred over the other. This outraged customers who quickly took to social media to voice their complaints. The company did not respond at first. This enraged customers even more. When the company finally responded, they did not apologize. Instead they told followers to go to another blog if they did not like the posts. The company also deleted negative comments. Later, the company issued a half-hearted apology. However, many customers still viewed them as hypocritical.

4). Train staff on how to communicate with customers

All staff members who communicate with clients through social media should be aware of the message the company is trying to communicate and the general organizational strategy. According to Michael Fertik, “…a defined digital presence – coupled with realistic expectations – can be a source of significant support for most, assuming a thoughtful approach is taken.” Michael Fertik, Forbes, (http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelfertik/2014/08/21/is-social-media-worth-it-for-small-businesses/). It is essential for a company to strategically manage its social media communications and inform staff of this strategy and company goals.

A great example of a company training staff is Dell. As explained in the Harvard Business School Case Study: Building a Social Media Culture at Dell by Rohit Deshpande and Michael Norris, Dell established an internal social media and communications university (SMaC U). The case study explains that SMaCU was comprised of a set of social media communications courses offered to employees. Once employees completed the courses, they were allowed to communicate directly with customers on behalf of Dell with little oversight. This was a successful program and popular among customers and staff.

The company should also be sure that all account passwords and protected information is secure. There are hackers out there who expose company secrets and spread negative comments by posing as company representatives. The company should have a worst case scenario contingency plan if this happens.

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5). Be interactive

Lastly, it is essential to allow communication to flow two ways. Customers should be encouraged to comment and leave their honest opinion. The company should be prepared to engage with customers by responding to comments and speaking directly to customers. The company should also promote interaction and collaboration with customers. One way to do this is to target “core users”. These are customers or potential customers with a heavy social media influence. By gaining support of these customers, the company is potential reaching millions of users that they otherwise would not have access to. Regardless of the social media platform and strategy used, connecting with customers is a highly beneficial way for companies to market themselves and promote their business.

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