Small Businesses – Using Social Media
I’m pretty sure that you, as a small business owner, have heard about social media and its importance to your business. You may even use sites like Facebook and Twitter already – do you find them useful? If not, you’re not alone because social media has not worked for millions of small businesses.
So what’s all the fuss about you may ask? In fact, if you’re like the many small business owners I’ve spoken to, you probably wonder what all the big deal is. The question I ask is “How has that worked for you?” The answer I usually get is, “Not so great”, normally accompanied by a sigh or frown as the person contemplates why, especially if a competitor is doing well with Facebook and or Twitter.
Does Social Media Work?
Let’s clear up one thing, social media works and it works very well, if done correctly. In fact social media done well can propel a business to the top of the league. That then begs the question “do you want that much success?” Before you answer ‘what an idiot – of course I do!’ Think about it, the logistics of expanding your business, would you need bigger premises, more staff and a manager to help you run the business. Do you have the cash flow or credit line to buy what you would need to cope with the expansion?
All these questions bear thinking about if you intend to use social media to expand because it can work that well if done right.
Why does Social Media work so well?
Because we as a species are very social animals and, we socialize wherever and whenever we can. Online social media allows us to socialize with more people than we possibly could in ‘real life’. In fact so social are we that millions of people choose to join ‘virtual worlds’ where they work, play, marry, divorce and just hang out. They do it to socialize and while they do all that they talk about what’s going on in their life, real or virtual.
As they socialize they talk about where they ate last night – how good the food, the service, or the décor was. In doing so, they either endorse or condemn the restaurant. What do you imagine the people they talk to think? Would they go to that same restaurant? Would you if someone you knew told you (and everyone else they know) it was rubbish? Would you pass on the information, especially if someone asked you if you knew anything about that restaurant?
So we’re social animals, we like to talk about what we did, where we went, who we know, in fact anything that interests or impacts us is grist for the mill of social interaction.
But is that all? No it’s not, not in the world of social media for small businesses because we also want interesting, useful information. Things that make us think or laugh or even cry, we want in other words to be engaged. The internet offers such a breadth and depth of information (or content) that in order for you as a small business owner to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or any of the other 100′s of social media platforms, virtual worlds or forums, you have to provide content that engages your customers.
The next thing to understand is that just as in real life we like to socialize with people ‘just like us’ but we also long to be part of the ‘in-crowd’ too. Look at the celebrity gossip magazines, people love them because it allows them to be a part of those celebrity lives, even at a distance and even though the celebrity is unaware of them.
On Facebook or Twitter however, we can actually interact with them, or at least feel as if we do. Take the Facebook page of Barak Obama, president of the USA. Millions of people are online ‘friends’ or fans and they can talk to him just the same as they can their best friend. Or at least that is the illusion and it’s an incredibly powerful one.
So what is it that makes people ‘like’ those pages and the pages of international brand names like Coca Cola and Nike?
The content – that’s what!!! The competitions, the special offers, only for Facebook fans, the inside information that they get before anyone else (they’re now part of that in-crowd) in other words, the engagement.
Is it easy? No, it’s time consuming and requires planning and monitoring. If you have a Facebook page or Twitter following, your customers will use them to ask questions, post complaints or praise and they will expect you to answer them.
Hiring a small business consultant:
The next question I’m asked is “should I hire a social media consultant?” The answer is a cautious ‘yes’ but only if you’re prepared to give that consultant the tools they’ll need. You’ll need to sit down and formulate a plan, what sort of thing you’re going to post, what specials you’re going to offer, any seasonal info or offers. Seasonal offers and information should be scheduled at least 6 months in advance so you can prepare. It’s no good waiting until the season hits before you make the offers – it may be too late! You need to be able to tell your ‘fans’ that ‘coming soon’ is an offer they’re going to want.
That way they know to wait rather than look elsewhere now. Halloween is a classic example, takes place at the end of October but searches for all things Halloween peak in July. So if you have a Halloween offer you need to be talking about it in July to get the best response.
This is where small businesses often fall by the wayside, they create a Facebook page and post ‘sales messages’ and expect people to flock to the page. The first thing you should ask yourself is;
“Would I keep coming back to this page?” If the answer is ‘not really’ then why would you expect anyone else to?
Remember this, people will always want to know “What’s in it for me?” because there are a lot of people and or business’s out there offering them something of value, so that’s what they’ve come to expect (more precisely, trained to expect). From their standpoint (again), “what’s in it for them?”!!!!