How SMEs can use social media to grow their business
Written by Judy Sahay
Social Media is revolutionizing the way people connect with businesses. We’re going through a massive ‘game changer’ in the way businesses connect, interact and share information with their customers. Social media has broken down a massive barrier in the way businesses communicate with their consumers and has opened doors to two-way communication. Social media is replacing traditional media as the main holder of news and information to households. People wake up and read Facebook and Twitter posts like the morning news. They read it at night like the late news, and throughout the day like regular bulletin updates. It is often the first and last thing a person does on any given day. Consumers have the power to share what is important to them, influencing millions of other consumers around the world at any given time. The numbers are evident. There are >>>
- 1.15 billion Facebook profiles
- 200 million Twitter users
- 200 million LinkedIn users
- 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute
People follow a range of profiles on social media, including friends, celebrities, sports stars, artists, singers, favorite brands and government bodies. This is where businesses can benefit from the blurring lines of advertising, news and social networking by establishing their own online presence.
Paid advertising can be an expensive practice. Social media is an affordable and effective way to promote your business in real-time. Your potential reach is billions. Whilst that is an unrealistic figure, any target market is out there for you, whether it is specific to your local area or a bigger population. People trust word-of-mouth referrals and want a product recommended to them, not shoved in their face through advertising.
The first step to your social media approach is to realize your objectives. Is it to grow brand awareness? Is it to increase lead generation? Is it to improve customer retention?
These are the three main objectives a business generally aims to achieve. This is to get your name out there. When local classifieds and billboards just don’t cut it anymore, social media is there for you. Your safest bet is to be on Facebook, which has the biggest following and is most open to accommodate a wide range audience. It is useful for starting conversations, sharing photos, links, updates and videos. Facebook gives you the most freedom to showcase your business to large audience. With millions of consumers on Facebook, the potential reach for your brand is endless. It’s an incredibly powerful platforms which helps to effectively and quickly disseminate information.
Other sites like YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn are more for niche audiences, but have their own specific roles in the social media world. Best not to fall into the trap of having a profile across all sites just for the sake of it. This is time consuming and can dilute your online presence. Here are some examples of effective and sound online management >>>
Wendy is a 50 year old wedding dress designer. Lead generation is her main aim. Her online profiles include Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Pinterest is a big tool for her, as she uploads and shares a variety of designs from around the world, not just her own. She targets Pinterest mainly because of the demographics- there are five women for every man on there. It is very style oriented. Instagram is used for more personal uploads, like designs, functions and day-to-day pleasures. It gives followers a more behind-the-scenes view of Wendy’s personal interests. Tumblr is her own little portfolio where she provides a little description of each design. She finds this is popular for her global followers, as Tumblr is more popular overseas than in Australia. Facebook is Wendy’s big business driver. She interacts with fans, replies to feedback, links relevant news about the fashion industry and lets customers know of new designs and offers. All of these platforms link to Wendy’s business website, where a contact form is contained to allow prospective clients to express their interest. Wendy has heavily invested in social media to drive her business and showcase her designs, having a special team dedicated to maintain her online profiles.
Paul is a 38 year old plumber. He utilizes Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for the purposes of customer retention and brand awareness. He has an Instagram account, but realizing his job isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, now uses it for personal use only. His main tool is YouTube, where he creates tutorial videos to educate his clients and showcase his plumbing expertise. He finds that clients appreciate his knowhow and come to him for further help after watching his videos. On twitter, Paul follows various plumbing departments and organisations to be in the know when new technology arises. On Facebook, he joins in conversations with existing clients and encourages them to be brand advocates, whereby referring his business to friends is rewarded with loyalty discounts. This has created a word-of-mouth community for prospective clients. People find Paul approachable and appreciate his online transparency.
Jenny is a 25 year old freelance journalist. She is mainly on Twitter, LinkedIn and maintains a Wordpress blog. Jenny’s LinkedIn account is her virtual resume and profile, where prospective employers discover and track her expertise. Jenny’s Wordpress blog is used as an online folio of her work and to blog about life experiences and journeys. On twitter, Jenny follows numerous news agencies and sources to stay on top of events and opportunities as they arise. She also uses Twitter to network with peers and industry professionals. She does have a private Facebook profile, used only for keeping in touch with friends. Jenny is tech savvy and never misses a beat online.
John is a 62 year old electronics retailer. His family owned business has been established for many decades, and he plans to eventually hand down the business to his son. The son has just recently got social media up and running for the shop to achieve greater brand awareness. Before this, John relied on advertising in local classifieds, delivering mixed results. Through his son, John uses Facebook to promote deals, coupons and showcase new stock. Customers can contact them directly through the page to make enquiries. Currently, Facebook is their only outlet, as they don’t even have a website. Yet at this point they do not feel the need for one, as Facebook has already significantly driven new customers and word-of-mouth referrals to their shop. John wants his son to teach him how to use Facebook, though that may be easier said than done.
All four examples highlight the benefits of a different range of platforms for a different range of purposes. The case studies highlight how to keep things relevant for each occupation- designers will benefit from visual platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr, whilst shops and trades will benefit from the word-of-mouth communities on Facebook. Professionals will more likely use LinkedIn and Twitter to network with others, whilst manual occupations can showcase their profession on YouTube.
It doesn’t matter what sort of business it is, if run successfully social media can deliver real business value. You need to have a strong strategy, deliver unique compelling content, build authentic relationships with your customers and prospects, manage and monitor your campaign and measure your return on investment. But most important lesson of all is to set an objective, and work towards that objective with a clear vision to achieving it.
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