Now that social media is no longer just a ‘trend,’ many small business owners are coming to us unsure about how to proceed. Some may heard online shoe retailer Zappos does a great job of branding themselves on Twitter or Burger King went overboard with its “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign on Facebook, but the question of how to make social media work still looms.
The good news is social media isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies. In fact, many small businesses have surprised themselves with the amount of press they have garnered by networking with consumers online.
A perfect example of this kind of success story is that of The Kogi Truck, an LA-based catering truck with a shtick almost too-hard-to-resist: you have to go on Twitter (or their website) to find out where they are at any given moment. It doesn’t hurt that their delicious Asian-Mexican fusion makes use of high-quality ingredients like arugula and persimmons and is far from tasting like it was prepared in a truck or that word-of-mouth around the SoCal basin has been tremendously positive. The Kogi Truck is a clear case of online and offline marketing working hand-in-hand for phenomenal results.
The Kogi truck relies on Twitter to communicate its whereabouts with customers
While all of this is exciting and encouraging, before you dive in and try to replicate Kogi’s social media success story, it is important to know what you want. Whether you have profiles on all the relevant social networking sites already or are still trying to figure out if you need them, read on for five ways your small business can harness the power of social media. Once you understand can be accomplished, it will be easier to set realistic goals for a successful campaign.
1) Customer Relations
The days of relying solely on traditional media to reach your customers are over. Customers are online, and lots of them are using social media. Over 200 million users are on Facebook, over 30 million on LinkedIn, and over 7 million on the relatively new Twitter, and many of these users have begun to align themselves more strongly with brands they can find and engage with online. Don’t be left out in the cold.
Making yourself available via social media and building an online presence will not only keep you top of mind in consumers’ minds (see #2 below), it will help put a face to the name and make customers feel like they can count on you, a live person behind the profile or Twitter account, to be there when they need you.
2) Branding and Word of Mouth
You know your customers are online, now go where they are. While traditional marketing like print ads, radio and local TV spots may help you brand yourself over time, when it comes down to creating instant and powerful word-of-mouth, social media is cost-effective and fast.
Create a good impression by sharing a compelling article or useful tip. Show your personality by aligning yourself with a cause or purpose through your communications and announcements. Generate word-of-mouth with an online contest to promote a new product or service.
The sharing component inherent to social media makes it easy for your message to gain traction and your customers to spread the word immediately, and once you’ve built your profiles, there is no limit to the amount of publicity you can drive to boost brand awareness.
3) Dominating Online Real Estate
Have you Googled yourself lately? Try it. See what comes up in the organic search results. If you’re not dominating the first page of results, you have some work to do. Now, if you know anything about SEO, you know it takes time to see the fruits of your labor, but the good news is social media can give you a near instant boost in organic rankings. Social media sites tend to rank well and if you optimize your profiles smartly, you can begin ranking for many of your popular search terms.
Create your profiles on popular sites and you will take control of your presence online. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are the obvious choices, but grab yourself a YouTube and Flickr page while you are at it to prevent a competitor from creating an account using your brand name to dominate valuable online real estate that should be yours.
4) Generating ‘Free’ Website Traffic
Controlling your brand name (see #3 above) isn’t the only reason to setup your social media profiles. Dominating the organic search listings with high-ranking and well-optimized social media profiles will send ‘free’ traffic to your website. Likewise, website traffic will also be generated from within the social networks and especially from the sharing of your content by users in your network – also free.
5) Market Research
Talking to consumers viau social media is a fast, economical, and efficient way to conduct market research
In addition to assisting with basic customer relations, building a social media presence can also help you tap into your market and plan your next strategic move. What are customers saying about your company? About competitors? Any rave reviews or complaints?
Going beyond day-to-day customer service to actually query your user base with targeted questions can open your eyes to information you would never have known otherwise. Customers are often happy to share feedback with you regarding what they want and how well you are meeting their needs; all you have to do is find them online, build a relationship, and ask – it’s a market researcher’s dream.
For more information on social media or to launch or get help with an existing campaign, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.