In today’s business environment, social media isn’t optional—it should be a key part of your marketing plan. Most businesses have at least a Facebook and Twitter page to make sure potential customers can find them online. But many of them don’t bother to do enough with their social media presence to influence their customers—or potential customers—to buy their products or services. Here’s how to do a better job with managing these critical marketing tools.
1. Deepen your brand’s identity
Go beyond just setting up simple profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These platforms are a (free) way to continue your business’s story beyond its website and printed marketing materials. Look at social media tools as a way to give your brand more of a life—through the images you post and the language you use. Prompt responses suggest your business as a whole is responsive and provides good customer service. Informal discussions work well for local businesses that have a community feel. In turn, the words and tone you use may also be reflected in your followers’ comments—furthering the brand.
Indeed, a brand identity is key because your most dedicated customers can latch on to that identity to promote your business for you. People are most influenced by the recommendations of people they know when they make purchasing decisions. That means the stronger your brand identity is, the more people will have advertise your business to their friends and families on your behalf by sharing your Facebook posts or retweeting.
2. Get a following
Don’t assume that because you have loyal customers, they’ll take the time to find you online. Make sure buttons to your social media pages are prominent on your website, your e-newsletters, your receipts, even your email signatures. Once they sign up to follow you, give them a reason to keep paying attention—by putting interesting, informational tidbits on your posts. Don’t waste their time with pictures of puppies or jokes unless they are relevant to your business. More than half of customers in recent studies said they are more likely to purchase from companies they follow on Twitter or Facebook, and more than three quarters of people in another survey said that the social media posts of companies they follow directly influence their purchasing decisions. Your followers should be first to know about your newest products and services or any special offers you have available.
3. Encourage reviews
People may be most influenced by friends and family when making purchasing decisions, but online reviews from strangers can be pretty influential as well, according to recent studies. Encourage feedback on your social media profiles so potential customers feel more confident in making purchases from your company. And be open to receiving both positive and negative comments.
4. Interact with your customers
Don’t treat your followers as a faceless mass—interact with them. Acknowledge and respond to tweets and comments whenever possible. Try to create the feel of a cohesive, collaborative group between you and your customers—it will both solidify your current customer base and attract new customers who will want to be a part of the “brand community.”
5. Give your followers exclusive offers
Exclusive discounts and other special offers are a way to distinguish you from your competitors that are also on social media platforms. Your followers will also be looking for these benefits– more than half of Facebook users said they expected some type of special promotion or offer after becoming a fan of a company. A small, one time discount for new followers—as well as occasional exclusive offers for your entire follower base—can go a long way toward keeping your company top of mind when customers are in the mood to shop.
6. Look into giveaways
Beyond offering discounts or promotions on your merchandise, invest in branded accessories, such as hats, stickers, and magnets, to use as giveaways to the members of your online community. These tokens can further your brand identity. galvanize your brand community, and earn you new followers. There’s even the possibility of free advertising if branded giveaway items are seen out and about with your customers. To offset this cost a bit, consider using a business credit card with rewards.
Setting up your business’s social media profiles is easy, but successfully leveraging those profiles to encourage sales takes some work. Keep in mind followers are more than a number on your social media dashboard—they’re past, current, and potential future customers. They need tending to—through updates and interactions—to remember your business when it comes time to pull out their wallet.
Published: July 30, 2013