If you’re running a small business, social networks like Facebook are invaluable—but only if you know how to use them. We’ll explain.
From the perspective of startups and small businesses, you might say we’re living in a golden age. Never before has it been so simple for a small organization to take on the big dogs in their industry—and never before has it been so easy for business owners to bring in customers and spread their brand name. Combined with the advent of mobile search, social media offers unprecedented reach for any brand that knows how to use it.
Key phrase there: in order to benefit from social, you need to understand it. Otherwise, you’re just going to be flying blind, fumbling around in the dark. That’s where we come in.
Today, we’re going to be talking about how you as a small business owner can use social media to generate awareness, bring in more customers, and enhance your brand,
Step One: Give People the Information They Need
When using Google, 88% of smartphone users search with local intent. They want to find a local business that sells what they want to buy. It’s imperative that you include as much localized information on your site as possible, including name, phone number, and address: Name, Address, and Place.
Further, this data needs to be available across as many sources as possible, both to help users find you and to help you rank.
“If your name, address and phone number, or NAP, is consistent across a variety of online sources search engines have more confidence in knowing that your listed real physical location is ‘real,’” explains marketing expert Roy McClean. With that in mind, McClean advises that you submit your NAP information to as many review sites and search engines as possible; the more places you have a listing, the better.
Now, at the moment, it sounds like we’re talking about SEO. We are…but social optimization and search engine optimization actually aren’t as different from one another as you expect. And almost every social network allows you to add an address to any profiles or pages you create.
And you’d best believe that users will find you through social…and will find you on social through your website. If you don’t keep information consistent across all platforms, your brand is going to look bad.
Step Two: Have a Coherent, Consistent Voice
Sit down, and think about the core values that define your business. What do you want your company to accomplish? When customers think about your brand, how do you want them to feel? Your voice on social media—or rather, your brand’s voice—needs to reflect this.
If you’re running a lifestyle business targeting Millennials, plenty of Instagram posts, irreverent comments, and entertaining content is a great choice. If you’re targeting Baby Boomer businessmen, however, a more professional angle is important.
“Conveying a tone that represents your brand in the best possible way is crucial to both your marketing collateral and social media posts” explains Camille McClane of Marketing Profs. “You need to establish what goals you wish to accomplish for your business, and make sure your brand is genuine in the voice you want to present to potential and loyal customers.”
Step Three: Make Sure You Choose the Right Networks
What networks does your target demographic use? How likely are you to get a response if you yourself set up shop on these networks? These are both important questions to answer if you don’t want your social marketing efforts to go to waste.
You need to invest your time and energy into the networks that will give you the greatest returns; you can’t afford to spread yourself over every single network on the web, nor should you try to do so. Choose one or two sites to focus on for starters—you can always expand if you have more resources later on.
Step Four: Think Beyond Marketing
The beautiful thing about social media is that it’s good for so more than just spreading the word about a brand. In the hands of someone cunning enough, it can be an invaluable business tool. Consider the example of Vancouver backpack company Herschel Supply Co.
“Using social media, Herschel Supply was able to achieve a 20% lift in customer service satisfaction rate and 60% increase in overall positive brand sentiment,” notes a piece on the Hootsuite Blog. “One of their social media objectives is to try to respond to every question – even those that don’t directly mention their business. To do this, Herschel Supply’s team set up search streams in Hootsuite to monitor various hashtags and keywords, such as #Herschel and #HerschelSupply, for proactive customer support.”
Customer support is just one of the ways you can use social networks to enhance your brand – get creative.
Step Five: Content, Content, and More Content
Even if you’ve got a great voice and make a consistent effort to connect with your audience, there’s a good chance your efforts will be for naught without content. It’s at the core of every successful social channel, user, or page—and as such, it should arguably be your main focus. But there’s one thing worth emphasizing here: don’t simply pump out content for the sake of doing so.
“It should go without saying, but you’ll create a much stronger brand reputation if you focus on creating useful content that viewers will want to share, rather than cranking out content to meet arbitrary publishing calendars or that covers subjects only you’d want to read,” writes Entrepreneur’s Aaron Agius. “One of the easiest ways to create content for deployment on social media profiles that’ll support your brand building efforts is to see what types of posts others have been successful with and put together your own, better versions.”
Step Six: Remember That You’re Building a Community
Last but certainly not least, don’t ever look at social media as purely a branding opportunity. You’re doing more than making people aware of your business. You’re creating a community around your company and its products—and like any community, it’ll collapse without a great and passionate leader who treats its members like people, not sales leads.
“Encourage customers to reach out on social networks if they have a customer service question,” Soothing Walls CEO Loren Taylor tells Forbes. “Set up email or text message alerts for your team so they can respond immediately to customer concerns. If a customer question would benefit your community, turn your answer into a blog post, and invite other customers to share their experiences. When social media makes them feel like part of your small-business family, customers will return again and again.”
Author: Maxim Emelianov is the vice president at HostforWeb.