Social media is an essential tool for many small businesses, according to San Diego-area authors and marketers Holly Berkley and Amanda Walter. It can be underused, overused, or misused in the wrong hands, and learning what to do and how to do it is essential as it can make or break a business.
“Social media puts the power back in the consumer’s hands. And when consumers have that much voice, businesses need to listen, and act accordingly,” the authors explain in their book, The Social Media Advantage.
One obvious advantage to being active in social media is that a company can practice customer service where their customers are. If a customer is on Twitter, tweeting good things, the company can thank the person, or retweet the tweet to followers for a bit of a public relations brag … but sometimes, a customer (or even competitor) might say something not so nice, and a company that is on top of its social media can respond accordingly with good customer service or best public relations practices via social media. Many complaints can be resolved quickly, before they grow and get worse as news of something bad spreads.
Companies can market their products and services on social media to their followers. Perhaps they’ll offer specials to loyal fans, or treats for new followers. They can also get immediate feedback on products, services, or campaigns based on the response they see to their efforts. There are many opportunities to try different marketing tactics in social media.
Results can usually be tracked in real time, so businesses are able to tell what’s working, and if something is not working it can be changed or updated right away.
Berkley and Walter say that many small-business owners who haven’t yet tried social media as a marketing or customer service tool claim it’s because they either don’t have the time, or they don’t know where to start. The authors explain that it’s a lot like dealing with anything else in business: You need to start with the end in mind, and figure out your objectives. Think about your business goals and marketing goals. What do you want to communicate to your clients? Where are your clients? What about your competitors?
From there, you can decide on a strategy. What will success look like to your business? What kind of resources will you assign to social media?
Once you’ve figured out your objectives, decided on a strategy, and started your social media campaigns, the authors say that “you must be prepared for flexibility. Social media tools and rules change frequently. Although you are not expected to be a social media expert, your company must be able to make a quick decision and respond in real time to crises as well as positive PR opportunities that arise.”
Consumers may have the power thanks to social media, but small businesses can have control over their own social media presence if they make understanding and using social media part of their business strategy.
Social media is a powerful tool and many small businesses would benefit from understanding what their customers are really saying. Berkley and Walter’s book explains how to begin a social media campaign for your small business:
(or their ebook).
Including case studies, it’s an easy-to-read look at what social media exists today and how small businesses can leverage it to their advantage, from two experienced online marketers.