It’s hard to ignore the ongoing rise of social networks, but many business owners still struggle to understand how social media channels can offer real benefits. Although there may be an awareness of Twitter and Facebook, such online properties are often associated with teenagers and it may be felt that there are primarily used to maintain relationships.
There’s an element of truth in that explanation, of course, but it ignores the powerful impact of these channels. The personal nature of them is what provides their strength, from a marketing perspective.
The wrong approach to engagement
Many small businesses, in particular, make the mistake of viewing their social media channels as a means of sending out endless alerts about the arrival of new products. This is a strategy that has a place, but it’s unlikely to deliver particularly impressive results. The problem here is that an attempt is being made to broadcast messages, without really looking to play a part in two-way communications. This will always limit the impact of what is being attempted.
If you don’t think that social media has a place within your business, then it’s probably time to think again. If you’re struggling to see value in this area at the present time, then it may be time to consider the approach that you’re taking.
My own feeling is that social media must be considered as part of the core marketing mix. Your Facebook page, for example, should be an extension of your main website. The look and feel, together with the approach that you take, should be completely consistent. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a little more freedom to act here, but it’s critical to remember that every update that you make and every message that you send will have a direct impact on how others see your business.
A two-way conversation
If you’re only thinking about what you can get out of your social media presence, then it’s likely that the rest of the community will soon see that transparent approach in the proper context. By taking the time to engage, on the other hand, you can really start to build relationships with potential customers.
Will such relationships result in sales today or tomorrow? Possibly, but that’s not necessarily the aim. I prefer to see social media engagement as part of a longer term strategy. If you can be helpful online and provide useful information, together with friendly responses, then you’ll start to build up a positive impression of your brand. That’s something that will stick in the minds of those who talk with you online. They may well tell friends and family members about their experiences, helping to raise the profile of what you are doing.
Indeed, part of the beauty of any social media channel is that it makes it so much easier to share information. You never know when your small and relatively unknown brand may be brought in front of a wider audience.
Embrace new opportunities
There are also implications here in terms of your approach to customer service. It’s hard to ignore the fact that many large companies are increasingly using Facebook and Twitter, in particular, as additional customer service channels. If a customer has a problem, then they may choose to send a message via such channels, rather than picking up the phone or sending an email.
What this means is that there may be an expectation that you will respond promptly. It’s also true to say that the public nature of some conversations will make your actions that bit more visible. At first, this may seem like a rather daunting proposition. Once you start to embrace the opportunities and act creatively, however, you come to see that there are real positives to be found here.
If you are responding to customer queries via Twitter, building relationships on Google+ and providing links to great information on Facebook, then there’s the chance for you to get one step ahead of your competitors.
You may feel that social media has no relevance to your business. In reality, that sort of thought process could be costing you sales. It’s time for you to engage with a wider audience.
[box_light]Simon Barnett understands that social media can be used effectively by any business, no matter how small. Through his work with Total Franchise online (you can catch up with them on Twitter, of course), he sees that some small businesses are actively using such channels.[/box_light]