Why Your Small Business Needs a Social Media Strategy
Once thought as fun fad, social media has established itself as a pillar of business marketing. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a number of other influential platforms continue to grow, and businesses are learning to funnel these social media interactions into sales. EMarketer.com recently declared 2014 as the year of social acceptance, noting that nine in ten marketers will use social media marketing this year. Each business’s social media strategy has its own focus, but most businesses use social media for any (or all) of three purposes: driving web traffic, engaging in customer service, and raising brand awareness.
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Businesses looking for sales usually try to direct their social media followers toward their websites. Link to your website with some restraint and you’ll avoid a reputation as a self-promoting money-grabber. Facebook and Pinterest are the two dominant platforms for referral traffic. A recent Shareaholic report revealed that Facebook referred more than 15 percent of all web traffic in December 2013. Photo-sharing platform Pinterest referred nearly 5 percent of all traffic, as much as Twitter, Reddit, YouTube and LinkedIn combined, according to TheNextWeb.com. Followers aren’t going to flock to your website without some sort of incentive. Exclusive discounts and promotional offers draw readers to you website, where your chance to close a sale grows exponentially. Your success on Pinterest depends largely on the masses. If lots of people pin your products, you’ll get more traffic. To boost your shareability, focus on photo quality. Well lit, high-resolution pictures will catch the attention of most users. Social media traffic is pointless unless your website is built for success. Visitors should be able to navigate, interact and make purchases without a hitch. If your existing traffic doesn’t usually convert into sales, the problem isn’t your marketing tactics, it’s your website.
Social media provides an unprecedented platform for businesses to interact with consumers on a personal level. Open communication goes both ways, however, and consumers aren’t shy about voicing negative opinions. The rise in social media complaints has spawned “social care,” a social media-based customer service. When customers post on brands’ Facebook or Twitter pages, businesses can respond to resolve the issue. Not only do they have a better chance to retain that customer, but the interaction is also visible to both networks’ connections. Billing service Chargify uses Twitter to respond to customer issues. This commitment to social care promotes customer loyalty and a reputation of excellence.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of a strong social media presence—brand awareness—grows with each tweet, post and share. Traditionally, businesses spend a significant slice of their budgets on advertising to spread awareness. Social media is a natural pathway to prominence. Produce great content and you’ll spread across networks like a virus. As you build you brand, remember that social media was founded upon natural conversations. Followers won’t tolerate incessant badgering. Entrepreneur.com suggests an 80-20 rule: spend at least 80 percent of your time on non-self-promotional content and no more than 20 percent of your time pumping yourself up.