5 Ways strategic Social Media can help small businesses

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One of the biggest misconceptions about social media strategy is that only the big brands and enterprise organizations can afford success. The impression is bigger businesses have unlimited resources, people and budgets to execute on all new ideas. This is simply not true. Like in anything, people are focused on their jobs as they exist and anything new that comes along, well, it’s met with prejudice.

The truth is that small businesses possess an enormous advantage over big businesses—the ability to recognize and adapt to new opportunities much faster, with far less investment, and with a greater capacity to learn and improve at will. So when it comes down to how a small business should consider how to employ a social media strategy, why would we look to big business for inspiration?

a) Because they have millions of friends, fans, and followers?
b) They are getting a ton of Likes, Tweets, and Youtube views?
c) They are always the source of the best content – videos, posts, infographics, designs
d) None of the above

The answer is “d” – none of the above.

Why?

Because most businesses, large and small, have not answered that very question, why? Why would we go on social networks? Why would customers connect with us there? Why would we gain any value out of online engagement? Why would any of this impact my business?

At the root of the problem, today’s social media programs start with the technology in mind and not the solution in mind. Many businesses jump into Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+, et al, without thinking through opportunities or customer expectations and experiences.

To help get you started and to leap frog even the most advanced businesses in social media, I’ve outlined 5-step approach. Working through it will assist in the development of a relevant social media strategy that allows you to earn customer attention, relationships, and loyalty in places that only expand your reach and impact.

5 Ways to Develop a Strategic Social Media Presence

1. Listen, Search, Walk a “Daily in the Life” of…

Take some time to search Google, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google+ for related keywords and geographies to your business.

Take notes of what you find…capture the trends, insights, activity, and the players that matter to you

Document the 5W’s + the H.E.: Who, What, When, Why, How, and to What Extent – it’s the only way to work toward ROI

Prioritize networks

Recognize patterns and behavior

Observe trends and themes

Tip: Also pay attention to what people aren’t saying or sharing

2. Define Your Online Brand: What do you want people to see and appreciate?

Take a step back to think about the value you can add based on who you are and the expertise or the unique service or solution that only you can provide

Define why you are different than your competition

Design the professional brand and the persona you would like to convey online

Describe “your” experience: What is it that you want people to see or think when they find you in social networks

Portray your brand, persona and the experience in your profiles

Tip: Don’t sell or overly promote…

3. Develop a Social Media Strategy: Make your presence matter

Write a vision statement for how you will use social media to build relationships, a community around your value proposition, and how social media will enable your strategy

Describe what social media success will look like

Customize your presence, goals, and what success looks like in each network

Create an editorial program that reinforces your value, your business, and your goals within each network

Understand what format to you love using AND what seems to be the formats your customers prefer

Curate relevant and interesting content that reflects your professional and personal interests

Tip: Find the balance between personal and professional activity online, it can’t be ALL business

4. Build and Invest in Your Community: Participate and earn affinity to become a trusted resource

Share insights in the communities that matter to your business and reach beyond the friends, fans, and followers you already have

Identify and talk to local online influencers who can help you spread your expertise and value

Ask and answer questions in your communities and across other vibrant communities hosted by others

Maintain a valuable and timely presence

Create a “linked” network of resources: Link to or recommend people who can also help your customers

Tip: Invest proportionally in social media, search engine optimization/digital and your real world activities

5. Learn: Repeat steps 1-5 over time to stay relevant as technology and behavior evolves

Learn from everything to improve experiences and your overall strategy

Ask your community what they’re looking for and how you can better help

Monitor activity using social media listening tools around you and in your areas of focus to stay on top of trends, themes, and needs

Tip: Looking at activity through the lens of your customers and walking in their shoes will always keep you on target in your strategy.

Taken from: http://www.briansolis.com/2012/09/5-ways-strategic-social-media-can-help-small-businesses/

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Using Facebook for small busineses

Over 800 million people are currently on Facebook, so it’s no surprise every business wants to use the social networking site to drive their business. But how do you create a community and engage with them effectively? Kirby Koo, Manager of Small and Medium Business Growth at Facebook gives us some top tips that will help you get the most out of your business’ Facebook Page.

1. Get to know your fans

The best way to get your fans to talk about your business with their friends is to understand what they care about. Use Page Insights regularly to track which posts sparked conversations and sharing, then try to keep posting this kind of content.

It’s worth remembering that no matter how engaging your posts are, not all of your fans will see them in their News Feed. To make sure that more people see your posts, you can use Page Post ads which are a great way to reach a wide audience and get more people to Like and engage with your Page. And because these ads are telling people what their friends are Liking and interacting with they are much more effective because of that social context.

2. Stand out from the crowd

Don’t forget that people’s News Feeds contain a lot of information and they are busy so probably won’t have time to read everything. Your posts are a reflection of your business but keep them short and snappy, ideally less than three lines. Pictures are also a powerful way to grab people’s attention so try to include related images when you post.

3. Post regularly

It’s important to keep up the conversation with your fans so that you build a real relationship with potential. You wouldn’t stop talking to a friend for six months and then try and start up a conversation out of the blue, so you should treat your Facebook Page in the same way! There are no hard and fast rules for the optimum amount of posts and only you know how often your fans want to hear from you. If you run a small shop for example you may want to post a few times a week when new products come in, however often you decide to post, make sure you post consistently.

4. Start conversations

Your Page should be a place for conversations between you and your fans. You can ask people questions and make them feel involved with your decisions. Your Page is a real online community, so you can use it as a way to gather feedback about your business.

Facebook’s Questions feature allows you to ask your fans for ideas about how to improve your business. People can agree with an existing answer with a single click, or add a different response – this is incredibly easy and means your customers can engage with minimal effort. “Fill in the blank” posts can be particularly useful if you want to give your customers a very simple way to engage with your post by asking them to finish your sentence.

5. Reward your community

There are thousands of businesses on Facebook so you need to stand out from the crowd, you could reward your fans for liking your Page by offering competitions and special offers. Think about announcing new products to fans on Facebook before anywhere else, giving fans early access to sales, or posting exclusive photos from events on your Page.

6. Be relevant

Your fans will be more likely to notice your business’ Page if you post about relevant issues, post about special offers and mention the issue of the day – whether that’s the Oscars or Mother’s Day.

Visit facebook.com/FacebookMarketingUK to keep up with how you can use Facebook to market your business

Picture credit: Rex Features

Taken from: http://www.stylist.co.uk/stylist-network/how-to-use-facebook-for-small-businesses

5 ways that social media can be used for marketing a retail business

Social media is becoming an increasingly important element of many firms’ marketing efforts but independent retailers are slower to pick up the trend. However social media can benefit all types of business, including high street shops, restaurants and pubs.

Recent research has underlined the fact that many consumers now use the internet generally, and social media specifically, as their first port of call when looking for products or services. It is also the case that as many as 70 per cent of consumers now use social media to air their grievances about firms with which they have had a bad experience.

As a retail business owner you must ensure that you are properly harnessing the power of social media if you are to benefit and control the way your business is perceived online.
All too often when social media is used, business owners think it is enough to simply sign up to a few social networks and then forget about them. This is not an effective strategy. In reality, you will only get the most out of social media if you make a proper time investment.

So how can you best use social media as a marketing tool for your retail business? We have compiled a list of examples showing how other retailers have used social media marketing (often shortened to SMM) to great effect.

Micro-blogging

Twitter and other microblogging platforms provide an incredible, free marketing opportunity for independent retailers. The benefits are two-fold.

Firstly, they provide you with an opportunity to monitor what customers are saying about your firm in real-time, while allowing you to respond instantly. Secondly, they allow you to engage instantly with your customers about promotions, new products and other related news.

Zappos, the American footwear retailer, set the benchmark for Twitter engagement. It was an early adopter of the technology, using it for customer service and to promote offers, and has since set up an aggregation page that displays every mention of its brand – again, in real time. This helps to present Zappos as a reputable brand, and an active part of the social media community.

Facebook applications

Facebook is by far the most popular social network, and marketers have long been considering ways to make it work for them. It may not be an effective marketing tool for every retailer, but it is worth spending a bit of time trialling it to see whether it is right for your business.

IKEA have been responsible for some of the most innovative uses of Facebook. Late last year they ran a campaign in which photographs of IKEA storerooms were posted on the network, and Facebook users were told that whoever ‘tagged’ themselves on an item first would win it. This clever combination of interactivity and competition helped to create significant exposure for the retailer across Facebook – and, of course, got people talking offline as well.

Employee engagement

SMM tends to fail when it is obviously dictated from the top down. Instead, you should think about ways that you can encourage your employees to participate in your social networks and their own on behalf of your business. Enlisting their help will also cut down on the time you spend managing your social networks, which can end up being quite a lot!

Sainsbury’s has become increasingly proficient at this in recent months, developing a ‘cookalong’ scheme whereby employees cook a meal (with Sainsbury’s ingredients, of course) once a week and tweet the recipe as they cook.

The importance of listening

Remember that your SMM efforts will only succeed if you are prepared to listen to your customers, rather than talk at them. Unlike most other forms of marketing, social media facilitates conversation, rather than a one-way flow of information. BT understands this well; they monitor many social networks for mentions of their brand name, and respond to users where appropriate.

Bear in mind, though, that users will be instantly turned off by anything resembling spam. So avoid mass following on Twitter, or going on ‘friending’ sprees on Facebook. Instead, think about ways that you can encourage users to come to you.

The power of video

Many businesses underestimate the power of video content but for many people, video is a far more engaging medium than text or still image. Comparatively few marketers bother experimenting with it, however, as it is difficult to get right and the videos can be expensive to create.

A ‘viral’ video is often seen as the holy grail of SMM, and content of this type has driven massive sales for some canny retailers and brands. IKEA has been particularly successful in this area, developing a series of somewhat risqué adverts, and then posting them to Youtube described as ‘banned’ commercials.

As a retail business owner you obviously need to stick to a careful budget, and some of the ideas and examples provided here may therefore be beyond your abilities. But they should help to underline the basic concepts of social media marketing. If you are prepared to listen to your customers, and you understand that the social media sphere does not work like any other marketing medium, you are on the right track.

Finally, it is important to remember that SMM is unlikely to be a panacea for your business. Do not throw all of your eggs in one basket by neglecting other marketing activities. Instead, think about ways that you can leverage a mix of media and marketing techniques to help get your message across.

Taken from: http://www.simplybusiness.co.uk/knowledge/articles/2010/04/2010-04-06-how-retailers-can-use-social-media-for-marketing/