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Social Media isn’t your grandpa’s word of mouth. Today small businesses have at their fingertips free online platforms to connect and enter the conversations happening in the lives of prospects and customers. Even thinking back ten years ago, it’s hard to imagine the phenomenon of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and rising social media platforms such as Pinterest, Google +, and LinkedIn. Social media offers your business a whole new way to amplify your unique message and connect with prospects and customers.
Is social media really the new word of mouth on Miracle Grow? According to a 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 90% of surveyed small businesses agree that social media is an important to their business. Let’s explore the reasons why.
Social media gives your small business a way to break through all the noise and capture your tribe of prospects and customers. With social media you have the free tools to laser target and connect with people who share like interests, challenges, and goals. Listening to the conversations- what people are Liking, Tweeting, Sharing, and commenting about- provides you with a gold mine of market research. Conversely, you can efficiently “speak” with prospects and customers through “Likes”, “Tweets”, and sharing relevant information. It’s now possible to connect and build relationships with prospects and customers without ever meeting them in person.
You own your own broadcasting network
You build your audience of Followers- peers, centers of influence, prospects, and customers- and educate them with interesting, entertaining, engaging and relevant information. This then positions you to promote your own breaking news, special events, and special deals and offers about your business. Think of social media as a powerful broadcasting tool to establish your authority and expertise. Since social media is so new and rapidly evolving, and it offers a whole new way to connect, it requires a mind shift for many small businesses.
While the mechanics and nuances of social media do have a learning curve, these benefits cannot be ignored. Social media, when approached with the right mindset and tactics positions you to reap these benefits:
Now you know the reasons why social media must be a part of your marketing efforts. Let’s take a look at your social media options.
Many small businesses find the world of social media and all the options confusing and overwhelming. Each social media platform has its pros and cons. It’s vital to keep in mind your business doesn’t need to use all these options, but it is critical to find the right mix that does work for your business. It’s best to first of all, determine your marketing goals. Then weigh the time and money costs and the profit potential of each social media platform to narrow down the right social media mix for your business.
With Facebook you are able to build and scale a community of people interested in your business niche. Facebook gives you many of the same functions of your business blog. You are able to create a page with your business name or keyword phrase. You can post your content- share a link to a blog post, upload videos and photos, and announce events such as a webinar or even live workshops.
The advantage of Facebook is the sheer numbers of people actively using the platform and the ease in which they can share and spread your content within the network and beyond. Your business benefits from increased brand awareness, since your name and logo are exposed to a wider crowd. In addition, Facebook has a robust analytics tool to track activity and interactions with your business page.
The disadvantage of Facebook is, like a blog, the time investment to create and promote content.
Twitter enables rapid, direct communication. With the use of social media monitoring platforms, such as Hootsuite, Social Oomph, or Tweetdeck, you can listen and then enter conversations and connect with centers of influence, prospects, and customers in real time. Twitter is a great way to monitor the news in your industry and even spy on your competition.
It’s important to have a plan and strategy for Twitter use. Without a clear focus, you message disappears into the conversation stream quickly, and effectively managing Twitter in your marketing does require considerable time and effort.
Many people don’t view YouTube as a social media platform. In addition to “Liking”, sharing, and ability to comment on videos, YouTube is a powerful search engine, second only to Google. Since Google owns YouTube, it is a platform that offers both SEO and social media leverage to your business.
The technical requirements of creating, producing, and uploading video is a stumbling block for many businesses. However, many of the most popular viral business videos were produced with very low budgets or shot on the fly with an iPhone.
Set Up a YouTube Channel for Your Business. (Log into Google using your Business Gmail account)
This is the preferred network for business professionals. It’s a great platform for those who market Business-to-Business products and services. In addition, it offers opportunities to connect with the influence makers, or position yourself as an authority voice in your industry.
The drawback of LinkedIn is it isn’t a good fit for consumer products and much of the activity is job and career search related.
LinkedIn has multiple ways to connect and build your business network. Explore what works best for you and your business
This is Google’s effort to connect the dots among social, search, mobile, and local search. Since it is a newer platform, and Google’s expertise is in the more technical search related side of things, many businesses are uncertain of the advantages of Google+. However, any business that depends upon traffic from search and local search must jump into the Google + game.
Pinterest is another newcomer that has quickly gained popularity, especially among female consumers. If your business is highly visual and caters to the female demographic, such as fashion, home decor, recipes, Pinterest should be an interest.
Other less popular social networks such as StumbleUpon, reddit, Yelp have their fans and specific uses. One thing to keep on your radar as social media platforms evolve is the emergence of interest and industry specific social media networks. For example, iShade is gaining traction among the accounting profession.
No matter what your mix of social media platforms are the right combination for your business, all your platforms must be cross connected.