How Social Media Can Help Small Businesses Grow
Once a platform for friends to connect, social media is now one of the most powerful marketing tools in a company’s arsenal. Social media is often overlooked by small businesses, but it’s a great source of free marketing, and can help get a leg above the competition when done right. A half-baked profile, however, is worse than no profile at all, and comes across as lazy. When researching companies I will often find an old or unmanaged profile and be immediately turned off.
Small businesses are constrained by their very nature; they’re small. Staff are preoccupied with more urgent tasks like sales or strategy. Social media responsibilities fall through the gaps and often senior members of the team have to post erratic or rushed content. There’s a reason the social media advice industry thrives.
Its 2015, and it’s now essential that social media be one of your main concerns when starting out, so here are some ways that it can help a small business grow, and some pitfalls to avoid as you use it.
Establish a Brand
Social media gives free publicity to a huge variety of audiences. When starting, you first have to establish a brand, especially if using more than one website. Your brand is the content you create and share, how you interact with consumers, and how they perceive your company. It’s your image. Look at iconic companies like Coca-Cola, or ones that have crafted a known on-line presence like Taco-Bell or Innocent
Good branding builds trust and familiarity, and helps your business get chosen in a sea of similarity.
Interact with your audience
All of the social platforms give a way of interacting directly with the audience, like Facebook comments, and twitter @mentions, a rapport with consumers adds to positive branding and people find it to be more informal than emails or phone calls. Addressing people in this way, is a great way of building relationships, and getting feedback easily and often.
Perform an Audit
Once you have some standing, you can perform a social media audit. This looks at all of your platforms, the demographics of the audience and how well you are interacting with them. This insight can be seen as a form of valuable market research. Your social media following will reflect your customer base, so find out who is interested in your business and how best to interact with them. Do they respond best to links, to videos, images? You can also tell if your target audience is who you are actually reaching, and react accordingly.
A strong social media presence translates to a strong company in the public eye and can translate directly to increased sales and interactions. A weak social media presence does exactly the opposite.
Social media is somewhat of a double edged sword. Although a very powerful tool, it is detrimental if used improperly. Here are some mistakes I have seen quite frequently.
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
More on-line presence is great, but only if you can manage it efficiently. Doing one thing well is better than five things bad. Pick the right account(s) for your company. Facebook is great for B2C, LinkedIn for B2B. Don’t try to reach everyone. Know your audience and target them.
Make Sure Branding is Consistent
Mismatched branding across different platforms is confusing. The audience will ask if it’s the official page, or a different company. Part of presenting yourself professionally online is good control of your social media accounts. LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. should use the same logos, banners, and colour schemes or there will be confusion and your message will not get through.
Don’t Expect it to Work on its Own
Social media is a necessary tool that must be acknowledged. Don’t think that once you have a well filled out page you can sit back and watch the likes, +1s and RT’s come flying in. If a page is built and abandoned, it will not add anything to your brand.
Social media is an invaluable tool for anyone with financial constraints or needs to build trust and image within a community, more and more it’s becoming a priority, but as this happens anyone behind the times is highlighted and judged for it.
Poorly managed social media will hold you back, often more than none at all. Assign a manager. Hire an intern. Make it a priority. Do something. Just don’t let it fall by the wayside, because it can help you stand out from the competition, or it can force you to stagnate.