As the web continues to develop, it becomes more interactive and user centered. Web 2.0 is a revolution in the way people make use of the internet with a more user-centered design. It is characterized by a focus on people, communication, information sharing, collaboration, and usability. Users control their own experience and the information they receive.
Social media plays an important role in Web 2.0 because it enables people to use the internet to connect in a personal way. You can participate in social media by creating a blogs or podcasts or by engaging with social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Social media is a conversation – by engaging with social media you can participate in conversations users are having about topics related to your business, instead of using traditional marketing techniques and interrupting them to talk about your products or services.
Social media is a powerful tool that can, and should, be used by small and mid-sized companies to grow their business. Engaging with social media does take time and effort, but it is a very low-cost endeavor that can yield significant results. Small and mid-sized businesses can use social media to engage with customers in the more personalized space of Web 2.0 and build strong relationships while also increasing their reach. If you’re already using social media, these tips should still be useful in pointing out the objectives and goals you should have for your social media engagement.
Cost Effective: Repurpose Existing Marketing Material for Social Media Profile Setup and Content Syndication.
Social media and social networking sites are free and generally easy to use. It does take time to create a business profile from scratch on these platforms -- many require detailed company information, contact information and imagery. Chances are you already have this information, images and other value propositions prepared for other purposes. They can easily be repurposed for building your social media profile.
Once your base profile is established, your team will need to add interesting and relevant content. This can consist of original content like blog posts or even just commenting on industry news. It may not be realistic to generate and post content daily or even weekly. But even once a month is better than not engaging with social media at all. Again, take a look at your existing marketing material and determine if anything can be repurposed for use across your social accounts -- either as simple postings or ways to drive site visits.
Build Reach: Engage and Potential Current Customers
By engaging with current customers and clients in the more personalized space of social media, you widen your reach significantly. Loyal and satisfied customers will likely give positive reviews through social media channels. Their interactions with you and your brand will be viewed by other users.
Social media provides a space for powerful online word-of-mouth that can bring you qualified leads. If you create interesting and valuable content, it will likely be shared by customers and prospects. All of your interactions on social media enable you to reach more people, as you increase the number of people in your network, you will likely increase your leads and generate more customers.
The example below depicts the company profile of Eze Castle Integration on LinkedIn. As I access information about the company, I am able to see if I am connected to any of the employees, and if so, how I am connected. This represents a powerful networking and reference opportunity that all small businesses can use to their advantage.
Strengthen Relationships and Build Trust
Social media sites provide a unique opportunity for you and your business to interact with customers on a personal basis. The strength of social media comes from this personal contact, which encourages users to return frequently. Customers are more interested in dealing with real people and getting to know the people behind the brand, than learning about products or services.
In tough economic times, it is especially important to establish trust with your potential customers and create a relationship. By giving a face to your business, you will begin to establish trust. As you provide unique and valuable information to your contacts over time, you build this trust and foster relationships. As you strengthening your relationships with potential customers you make them more comfortable with your company, which should in turn give them peace of mind about doing business with you and encourage them to do so even when budgets may be limited.
Social media is a great space for developing this relationship with potential customers – use it to interact with customers and prospects to provide feedback about their questions and concerns.
The example below portrays an interaction on Facebook. Biotek posted a link referring to a event in their industry. A few people demonstrated interest and Biotek provided a helpful answer to one user’s question, building interest and trust in their company.
Establish Thought Leadership
By continually create unique and relevant information to share with your contacts, you will not only build trust, but also establish yourself and your company as a thought leader. Most of your competitors are probably engaging with social media in some way. If you fail to do so, you risk being out of the loop.
Write about topics that are relevant to your industry, even if you are just expressing opinion, to show that you are thinking about current issues and willing to contribute your ideas to the community. This will create relevance with the people you are connected to via social media channels - when they think about topics related to your business they will think of your company and have a personal connection.
In the example below, NICHQ used Twitter to send a quick Tweet about CEO Charles Homer being featured in an ABC News article. This is an interesting article for followers to read, and also demonstrates that Homer is an important thought leader in their industry.
Faster, More Efficient Connection
Social media channels shorten the path from your to your customers and give customers faster access to new company information. Users on social networks have landing pages that give immediate updates about other users and businesses they follow, so a company’s latest content is fed into the user’s entry page with each of these services. A user no longer has to visit a company’s website for new information, but instead has access to this info in one convenient spot.
For example, some restaurants are notifying followers of nightly specials, events and coupons via social media channels:
New content that is generated to drive social media traffic back to your site provides an organic SEO benefit. Search engines favor sites with fresh, new relevant content. As your reach expands by the spread of new content across social media, backlinking opportunities can increase. A backlink is a link from an outside website pointing to your site. Search engines value backlinks and they can help to improve your overall rankings.
Social media is a powerful marketing tool with several advantages that apply to small and mid-sized businesses. Participating in the social web is a cost effective method of brand building. By creating interesting content and maintaining a personal, human touch, small businesses can compete with large organizations with bigger budgets. Word-of-mouth and customer feedback are important aspects of social media, so if you have a great product or provide exceptional services, you should already have the satisfied customers who will be willing to say good things and refer their friends.
The best way to start or strengthen a social media campaign is to do a bit of research. The most popular social networking sites are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You should have a profile on each site. Look at your existing content such as blog posts, podcasts and videos -- determine the share-ability of this content and come up with a plan to syndicate across your social profiles. All of this content should be spread to spark interest in your company and help you connect with current and potential customers.