Here are some of the ways that small businesses can use social media to full advantage:
1. Brand Building
One of the best ways to create a recognizable brand is to start by managing your social media presence. Think about the kind of content you want to post and how it aligns with your business ethics and principles. The items you post will give your audience information that tells them what your company does, and what it stands for. In a world where people are increasingly concerned with where their money goes, this is a chance for you to share the moral and ethical beliefs of your company and show your follower’s the causes or social concerns that you support. On a more localized level, brand building can be a consistent use of graphics, colors, and logos to help create recognition of your business in the wider marketplace.
2. Product promotion
With the ever-growing tools that are being added to many popular social platforms, customers don’t have to leave their accounts to buy products. Online stores and payment tools mean that visitors to your accounts have the opportunity to view products and make purchases directly from your page. This can help increase sales conversions and minimizes the risk of ‘drop-offs’ often seen when customers click through to websites and need to wait for pages to load, or are directed to the wrong page. Presenting your products using social media is free in most cases and is an excellent way to showcase items or advertise sales and discounts to your audience. Limited-time sales and offers can be an effective way of driving conversions and with the social media tools available, special deals and one-off items can be presented to an already engaged audience.
3. Online Sales
Selling online can be targeted directly to your audience and past customers using social media to alert customers. Seasonal sales or exclusive deals can be presented via social media channels and whether purchases are made from social accounts or by directing buyers to your company website, making sales online can be boosted by social media promotion across business accounts. This tactic can be used to effectively grow followers who have already made a purchase by suggesting they follow your social media accounts for future deals. This fear of missing out or FOMO can be used to increase follower numbers by tempting them with the promise of future deals and exclusive or advance offers.
4. Lead and list generation
Consistent and active lead growth can be managed from social accounts by encouraging sign upds to an email list or similar using social media tools. Programs like Linktr.ee can be added to social media bios along with links to email programs or forms to collect audience information for marketing purposes. This can be useful for growing email lists which can be used in conjuction with social media channels to support marketing efforts. Lead and list generation can be easily managed from social media accounts and regular posting to channels helps to promote your brand or business to interested parties in a non-agressive way, creating an inbound marketing channel that users can choose to follow or not without pressure.
5. Attract followers
Social media channels are an excellent outreach tool and with the use of consistent posts, branded graphics, and interesting content, your social accounts can be extremely effective at reaching new people or audiences and attracting followers. Positioning content using hashtags of even paying for the occasional boosted post can have the effect of expanding business reach dramatically. This places your content startegically in front of people who have an interest in your products or services but who may not fit your typical demographic or buyer profile, and may find your offerings of value.
6. Share business updates
Keeping your audience engaged is important if you wish to build a solid social media following so frequent business updates give people a fantastic reason to follow your account. Anyone who follows your channels will be more inclined to remain if they know that they are the first to receive the latest and greatest news about your company. News shared can be anything from new hires, business collaborations, or even internal promotions. It gives your audience the feeling that they are directly involved in the internal movements and decision-making that happens behind the scenes. With regular bulletins and updates your followers will be more inclined to stay loyal, and posting this type of content helps to build a level of trust in your company.
7. Market positioning
Social media marketing is useful for positioning your business in front of the correct buyers and decision makers. This is where research pays off big time to find and use the right hashtags or tag the right people in your posts. This allows you to reach the people who will buy your services and/or recommend them to their own audience or business associates, placing you in front of an entirely new realm of buyers or cohorts. This takes advantage of business research and while you may have an ideal buyer or a handful of defined buyer personas, good market positioning can expand your business reach exponentially.
8. Answer questions
Answer your customer’s questions and use your social channels as a resource or knowledge base. Help your clients untangle problems or work through issues publicly using your social accounts. Other users can benefit from the information shared and managing questions this way has the added bonus of demonstrating availability and willingness to help your followers solve any issues. It shows your business in a favorable light to users who may be on the fence about using your services and is a great way to show off your commitment to a positive customer journey.
9. Become a thought leader
Take a look around at what your competitors are doing. What do they talk about? What kind of information are they sharing? Examine the content that they post to theur social accounts and then strive to go one step beyond. This can help to differentiate your business in the marketplace and establish your company as an authority or a thought leader on different subjects and topics. Along with increasing awareness of your company it promotes and intelligent viewpoint on industry issues and gives your audience an alternate viewpoint to consider. It can also make a refreshing change from the ‘run of the mill’ content that other businesses frequently fall into the trap of posting.
10. Drive website traffic
In terms of marketing, social media channels can be one of the best ways to drive free traffic to you business website. Whether your goal is product awareness, lead capture, or promotion, an interesting and engaging social account is instrumental in gaining website traffic. Make sure your accounts and bio are fully optimized and include a clickable link to your website. Monitor traffic using Google Analytics or similar to help you identifyhow much traffic is being driven from your social channels. Most social platforms include their one analytical tools, so use these too to identify the type of posts that get the best reactions and make more content along the same lines.
11. Cross promotions
A fantastic way to expand reach and gain a larger social media following is to collaborate and cross promote products or services. This can be done by seeking out influencers within your niche and paying for promotional posts, or it can be done with business associated and industry leaders as a mutually beneficial process. Cross promoting services means that both companies can position their offerings in front of the others audience to raise awareness and potentially gain more sales or sign ups. Not only does it have the effect of getting many more eyes on your business, but the fact you are sharing each other information is an unspoken endorsement of both business, a silent recommendation that this is a trusted organization to do business with.
12. Content sharing
Social media accounts by definition are content-sharing platforms, but that doesn’t have to be limited to one-off social posts. ‘Content’ on social channels can take many forms, for example, if you write articles for a company blog, these can be shared and linked on social posts to expand readership. Some platforms like Linkedin even include their own article writing tools that can be used to copy or share blogs with your audience. Video clips, podcasts, or live videos can also be shared to keep your social media account fresh and original. Any content that can be linked has the potential to be added to social feeds allowing followers to click and view, or listen to the items that you share.
13. Reputation management
Most people will check out your business in 3 or 4 places before they commit to making a purchase. Your website, social channels, and online reviews will all most likely be checked by a potential customer or client. For this reason, reputation management has become an important part of online business. Keeping a positive reputation or responding to negative comments quickly will be needed if companies are to look trustworthy and professional. Negative reviews and a poor reputation can easily put off customers, too many and it can mean that people simply go elsewhere rather than risk disappointment. Testimonials, complaints, and reviews will all need to be handled quickly and effectively.
14. Social listening
Part of effective reputation management is being able to react quickly and agilly to customer complaints and concerns. Social media accounts, hashtags, tags, and monitoring tools are being increasingly used to flag company mentions across social platforms. These tools give companies the power to respond directly to any issues before they get out of hand. It also shows customers that your business cares enough to watch out for positive and negative statements and respond appropriately. Discussing the issue directly with the comment or review poster gives companies the chance to resolve the issue and turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.
15. Audience engagement
Small businesses can gain more followers are create positive relationships with their followers across social media accounts. Where big business and larger corporations can sometimes seem impersonable and aloof, small companies can use their social platforms to appear friendly and approachable. This can be helpful for building direct and meaningful relationships with followers and building trust in your business. Customers will be more likely to buy from a company that they view as a friend of a colleague, so keeping users engaged is a great way to encourage sales.
16. Crisis management
Every so often, disaster will strike. Despite best efforts there will always be rare occasions where things go awry. Order management systems cease to function, email servers stop delivering, or maybe some kind of natural disaster disrupts operations. In this case social media channels can be a lifeline to maintain communications with customers and keep followers up to date on all developments. Problems and anticipated fixes can be shared along with projected timelines to keep your followers fully updated on events. Even if services are interrupted, regular and informative social posts can keep customers calm and removes the uncertainty surrounding unexpected circumstances.
17. Customer service
Some small businesses who have a relatively small customer base or undemanding customer service needs, actively encourage their clients to communicate issues using social media. In this instance, social platforms operate as a direct chat, or helpdesk tool to swiftly and effectively manage customer issues or handle problems. Monitored social accounts can be helpful to instantly alert customer service agents to issues and direct messaging tools can be used to chat in real-time to customers and correct any issue or answer questions.
18. Audience insights
Most small companies will use social channels to promote services or advertise their company, but many don’t use their accounts to their full capability. Included social tools like data and analytics can be used to gauge interest and reactions to individual posts and monitor things like account growth over weeks and months. Learning how to review analytical information and extract meaningful insights can help small businesses to pinpoint the kind of content that is most effective and use it to grow accounts even faster. Interpreting customer responses can be useful to direct content and target the right kind of audience.
19. Targeted advertising
Display ads and promotional content can be generated that are highly targeted using social account tools. Existing posts can be boosted or stand-alone ads created to raise awareness, increase engagement, or promote products and services to potential customers and audiences. Social ads provide some extremely powerful targeting tools allowing things like age, gender, geographic region, and even income levels to be selected. In addition, things like job position, and interests can be selected to define and target ad viewers in a highly specific manner. Paid ads can be very effective with the correct filters and selections to promote services and raise brand awareness.
20. Competitor monitoring
In a similar vein to account monitoring and social listening, competitors can also be monitored for activity to keep ahead of their news and content sharing. Following competitor accounts and watching reactions from their audience can help you to identify the kinds of things that are working. It can also be helpful to see reactions and gauge customer sentiment on specific posts or items. It can help you to see what is working, but just as importantly can highlight what is NOT working, allowing you to tailor your own content accordingly and avoid things that does not resonate with followers.
22. Brand recognition
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages for small businesses that keep an active social presence is brand recognition. Smaller companies who do not have the unlimited advertising budget of larger organizations can carve out a healthy chunk of the marketplace simply by growing and maintaining their social accounts. Millennials and Gen Z users frequently use their social media channels as a search engine and having an active presence can help many small businesses be ‘discovered’ by searchers. Using branded graphics and consistent posts can also drive a healthy brand image and increase recognition among users.
23. Social causes
Consumers are increasingly concerned with where are how their money is spent, shunning companies who support regimes or engage in behaviors that do not align with social justice or fairness. A robust social presence can be the ideal way to demonstrate and share the kind of causes or initiatives your business supports, and in a socially aware and conscious environment, it can make the difference between winning and losing customers. Incentives like a percentage of all sales going to charity or supporting education in emerging economies are all things that should be freely shared on social accounts to demonstrate your company’s commitment to doing business ethically.
24. Humanize business
Finally, having a social account to directly communicate and connect with followers is a way of putting a human face on your company. Adding a personal touch to the business process and being real, creates relationships and can generate a high level of loyalty among followers. Smaller businesses are coming to the fore leading on things like customer service and one-to-one communications in a way that makes customers feel really cared for and listened to. This can provide a distinct advantage over big businesses that, with thousands of customers and inquiries to manage, are just not able to provide the same level of personal attention.
While it can be easy to dismiss social media as a business ‘must-have’ the truth is that social media is an active, entertaining, and effective tool when it comes to connecting with your audience. For small businesses using social accounts properly and making use of all of the many sharing options can give an uncommon advantage, even above and beyond that of larger companies. With the outsourcing options available from social media management companies, maintaining a branded social presence is easier than ever before.