Many small business owners think social media is only useful for large brands, like Dell or Southwest Airlines. The truth is, any small business that effectively invests time in social media marketing can improve customer loyalty and increase the best kind of marketing there is: word of mouth.
Social media makes business more accessible and personable to customers and potential customers. It enables small businesses to maintain long term relationships and connections, increase referrals and increase trust. Used correctly, social media is extremely powerful for establishing and growing an online reputation.
Here are 5 of the most effective ways a small business can get started using social media:
Start a blog
When a small business embarks on their first social media campaign, typically the focus is Facebook or Twitter. In order to make use of social media giants like Facebook or Twitter, though, you need to incorporate your own site as a way to tie all of your various social media profiles and accounts together. When you start communicating and connecting with potential customers on social media, you want to give them a reason to visit your website.
Creating a blog and keeping it updated with fresh content may seem time consuming, but it provides a reason for customers to come to your website on a regular basis. You can offer tips and information that your target market finds useful, and enable commenting on your blog posts to get a conversation started.
Create a Facebook page
There are two types of Facebook pages: personal profiles and fan pages. Small businesses should consider setting up a Facebook “fan page” that provides customers with information about your brand, products, services, and any special events or promotions. Customers and prospects can become “fans” of your business, which connects their Facebook page with yours. Adding extras will give customers a reason to continue visiting your Facebook page to interact with your brand – try things like printable coupons or directions to your physical store location(s) using Google Maps.
Be active on Linkedin
A social network for professionals, Linkedin.com helps small business owners make great impressions and expand their reach beyond their own front doors. Once you've created a Linkedin profile for your business, you can encourage your clients, customers or vendors to write recommendations which appear on your profile. These recommendations are also likely to appear in the first page of listings when someone searches keywords related to your business. And how impressed do you think a potential customer will be if their first impression of you is through reading customer's glowing recommendations of your products or services?
Linkedin allows you to create groups and discussions on any topic you like, make connections and contact people you're interested in meeting. You can participate in the question and answer forum and establish yourself as an expert in your industry.
Everyone from celebrities to grandparents to businesses is using Twitter. What's the big deal about a site that only allows you to post 140 characters at a time? It's simple – Twitter connects you with customers and prospects in real-time. It humanizes a business and increases word of mouth marketing thanks to the ease in which people can take a message and re-post it on their own Twitter accounts, therefore increasing the number of people who are exposed to those messages.
Effective use of Twitter requires regular updates and interaction with people. Find ways to help other Twitter users, offer useful information in your posts and links, and generate interest in your brand by being personable.
As technology online improves and more people have access to faster internet connections, it's only natural that more people will watch videos online. In fact, nearly 152 million internet users in the United States watched 111 online videos each in April of 2009! That's a lot of eyeballs you could be connecting with if your business had videos online.
Create a video or post video testimonials about your company on your website and video sites like Youtube.com. Posting relevant content such as videos to your site helps it to rank higher by the major search engines like Google. When people search keywords related to the content in your videos and your company, your videos could appear in the search engines and on You Tube giving you yet another way to connect with your prospective customers.