Things aren’t the way they used to be, and small businesses are starting to understand that. Almost every aspect of all business is done online these days. If we expect to get results by remaining in the past, it just won’t happen. Find out why social media is imperative for the success of your small business in today’s age.
Can you remember the last time you used a phone book? What about the last time you sat down and read a local newspaper? Do you read the flyers that come in the mail, or do you just toss the whole bundle into recycling?Once upon a time, phone books, newspaper advertising, and flyers were the only media a small business needed. Now, there are at least a thousand ways to get your message out–which is both a blessing and a curse. The diversification of media has kept prices low, but many small businesses have lost the ability to effectively target customers.
The key to targeting customers is to recognize what you do when you search for a certain product or service. How do you decide where to go or who to hire for your small business needs? If your answer involves asking a friend or Googling a product, you are probably not alone. According to SCORE, a nonprofit organization that assists small businesses, it’s tied between word-of-mouth and online presence. However, word-of-mouth and online presence are both parts of social media marketing. If you lack social media presence, that’s a huge opportunity for you to increase your outreach without investing a large sum of money. You need to build on what you have. Small business needs four things to succeed today: a marketing plan, a website, social media presence, and good online reviews.
Start with a marketing plan. This requires the assistance of a social media marketing company that specializes in promoting and assisting small business. Only thing more expensive than a professional marketing plan? Not having one. You want to invest your valuable time into something worthwhile. You want your business to be noticed, and you want your product to reach potential customers as efficiently as possible. Professionals understand how search engines work, how to get your business to the top using SEO), and business analytics. Don’t worry–professionals working with small business also understand your need for a budget-friendly plan. Know what your budget is and what you want to achieve before approaching a social media company. Make sure they discuss the expected benefit of their services, and how you can measure success.
After you have a plan, you need a website. For a small amount of money (sometimes even $.99), you can register a domain name with an internet service provider and build an online presence via a website. It is essential that, as you set up that website, you know how you will use it. Do you want to sell a product directly from your website, or do you just want to establish a presence for customer service and content? Understand your needs and communicate them. Also, plan for filling that website with content. It must be kept up to date on a daily or weekly basis, depending upon your marketing plan, which can be a huge time commitment without professional assistance. Whatever web presence you put up must translate easily and beautifully to mobile, as it is mobile phones, not computers, that will drive your business toward success.
Once you have your website established with some content, logo, and posts, you can start establishing a social media presence. Often this is as easy as establishing social media accounts and turning on automatic sharing from your website. This type of automation can make social media marketing easy to manage, even for a one-person business, but you must be careful about how you communicate your message. It’s easy to forget you are posting in multiple places when you post on your blog, and things can be easily taken out of context. The worst nightmare for any business is having something said in innocence taken out of context by the public. Every post must show the very best side of your business. Again, depending upon your budget, you can have a social media company handle content and post for you in order to protect your brand and your business messaging.
Think about the kind of business you have, and what type of social media your potential customers may access. For example, if you have a business that depends upon young people, you may want to establish an Instagram or Snapchat account, posting short, sassy messages that build buzz about your company. If your business provides a service to professionals, you may want to establish a LinkedIn Business Page with carefully written articles appealing to business interests. You also may want to establish a Facebook page, Twitter feed, or even a Pinterest site to reach particular customer bases.
Online Review Management
Finally, you need to carefully manage online reviews. One really bad online review can bring your small business to its knees and stop new customers from coming your way. However, a carefully managed online review strategy can turn that business back on. Access online reviews by Googling your business name with the word “review” on a regular basis. Take an opportunity to answer reviews, good and bad, and especially address negative reviews by publicly asking how you can make things right, and offering assistance, discounts, or returns. Even recalcitrant reviewers who refuse to let you fix things can still make you look good to new customers when they see your public effort to set things right. Quickly answering complaints can demonstrate how sincere you are, and become a positive promotion for your company.