Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Maximize Efficiency of Social Media

For many small business owners, a typical day involves servicing customers, delivering products, managing the business and finances - and trying to squeeze in some time to market themselves on social media. Most business owners understand that their customers are spending an increasing amount of time on social sites discussing product experiences and researching purchase decisions, so they scurry to start a Facebook page or a Twitter stream. The problem with most is that they treat these marketing assets like buying an ad in the newspaper or the Yellow Pages. This usually results in a small business Facebook page that looks like a ghost town, with some pictures of the business, a few posts about an event months ago, and a handful of followers who joined when the page launched. On Twitter, there might be a couple posts each month and none address specific customer questions. Hence, many small business owners conclude that social media marketing is a waste of their precious time. But what they don't realize is that their lack of understanding of it is the real contributor of inefficiency. To really make social media marketing work, small businesses need to have a plan that focuses on having an ongoing conversation with its customers, not just broadcasting about the product or service. The "set it and forget it" approach doesn't work and is truly a waste of a business owner's time. The goal should be to engage and retain current customers and attract new ones through authentic interaction. 

Here are three basic tips to help small business owners get the most of their social media marketing to make sure it's not a waste of precious time:

1. Budget enough time to manage your social media assets or hire someone to do so.

Consider it as an important task that is part of your job. If you can't or don't want to devote the proper time for it, find a social media savvy person who does. Train that person so they understand your business completely and can address customer issues. Of course, this individual will need to communicate with the public in a professional way.

2. Spice up your content, so it's not dull and looks like marketing spam.

Remember that social media dialogue is just like a conversation and you wouldn't have a discussion where you're simply saying the same thing over and over again. Generate posts that elicit customer feedback. Run a contest or a sweepstakes. Invite your followers to submit photos of their family and friends using your products. Share the experiences of your best customers. You'll want to make the interaction entertaining so that your customers keep engaging and share with others.

3. Generate offers that create customer loyalty
Access to special offers is one of the biggest reasons people follow brands in social media. Give your followers something exclusive, make them feel special and encourage them to share it with their friends on Facebook and Twitter. It will help build your following and it’s cost effective compared to what you'd pay other services to distribute your offers.

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