We have already written several posts about the importance of social media in promoting your small business online, including a guide to getting started with the three most important social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. These websites are all excellent ways to connect and form relationships with your customers, build loyalty, and promote your business. However, if this is all you’re doing with these free tools, you are essentially just leaving money on the table. Once you’ve mastered the basics of interacting with your customers on Facebook and Twitter, you can exploit your social media presence in some very interesting ways.
1. Experiment with different types of content
In our blog post explaining how to get started with social media, we suggested writing blog posts that you can then promote and share using your social media accounts. This is still a great option, but blog posts aren’t the only things you can share. For example, if you or someone you know has access to a digital camera (like the one in an iPhone or other smart phone) and some basic editing software, you can create videos that you post on YouTube (for free) and can then share with customers and potential customers via your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
If you are a construction contractor, you might make short videos showing homeowners how to do small jobs around the house. These are great because they give your customers something valuable, and also show a bit of your personality and help your customers feel like they know you. If your work produces attractive final products (gardeners, florists, bakers, caterers, tattoo artists, etc.), you could also benefit from sharing photos of your work. This gives potential customers a preview of what they are going to buy and lets them develop an appreciation for your work before they ever experience it firsthand.
2. Experiment with different social networks
If you find that your customers are really engaging with a certain type of content that you’re sharing, you may want to consider creating a profile for your business on a social media site devoted to that kind of content. For example, a baker who is finding lots of success sharing photos of her fancy cakes and other treats should consider getting on networks like Instagram and Pinterest, which are all about sharing photos. Alternatively, someone who is primarily in Business-to-Business sales should think about creating a profile on LinkedIn, the business networking site. There is such a huge variety of social networks now that you are bound to be able to find one that is a perfect fit for your business.
3. Make your offline advertising work with your online promotions
Most small businesses do some kind of traditional advertising, whether through radio, print, and television ads or even fliers and posters. Social media can be a great way to extend these promotions. Including your Facebook page in your ads invites potential customers to learn about you and your company and gives them an easy way to check out what you can offer.
Providing people with an incentive to like your Facebook page once they arrive by offering a discount or a chance to win something multiplies the effectiveness of your traditional advertisements; every person who likes your Facebook page as a result of your ad helps to spread your message throughout their social networks. Building your online community this way is very effective – many people may join now and buy later. It’s a win-win.
4. For certain industries, Yelp can be huge
Yelp is a social network that allows users to rate and review businesses, and it is generally one of the top search results when searching for local restaurants or retail businesses. If you work in one of these industries and you’re not taking advantage of this, you’re missing a major opportunity to stay on top of the word of mouth about your business. Even if you work in another industry, Yelp can still be helpful, although you will likely see fewer reviews. Yelp allows users to create pages for businesses they want to review, so you may already have a profile there for your business that you don’t know about. Fortunately, Yelp has a process that lets business owners take control of the pages for their businesses.
Because Yelp is frequently a top result when consumers are searching for local businesses, it is important that your Yelp profile is filled with positive reviews. Encouraging your customers to leave positive reviews for your business can potentially lead to a lot of new business since consumers generally trust a company’s customers more than the company’s advertising, and people browsing Yelp are usually on the verge of making a purchase. Yelp uses a complicated formula to decide which reviews to display, so you may see that your positive reviews disappear over time. This is definitely frustrating, but as long as your customers keep leaving positive reviews and you respond constructively to any negative reviews you receive, over time Yelp can become a great resource.
5. Put your users and followers to work
These days, savvy business owners are turning their social media followers into a low cost promotional team. There are dozens of creative ways to incentivize your followers to become evangelists for your business, spreading the word about your services and promotions at virtually no cost to you. One restaurant I know of buys a weekly lottery ticket and promises a share of any potential winnings to anyone who shares a photo of that week’s specials on Facebook.
Another option is to host a caption, art, or slogan contest on your Facebook page, and have your users vote for the winning entry. The contestants will send all of their friends and family to your Facebook page to vote for their entry, and all of those people will see whatever promotion or deal you are running along with the contest. There are an endless number of ways to engage your customers in this way – all you need to do is be creative and provide them with value, and they will quickly become one of your most valuable promotional tools.