In the last few years, social media has exploded into our lives in a way that it would have been almost impossible to predict even a decade ago. If Facebook were a country it would be the third most populated country in the world, coming in above the United States with a staggering 400 million users as of 2011.
Recently, television adverts have started to feature “Find us on Facebook” badges directing people to their company Facebook page, and there is no doubting social media’s ability to get more people involved with your company, building brand awareness and loyalty in the process.
But if you are a small business owner, just how relevant is social media going to be to your company and how can you best utilize it in your company?
Social Media was one of the buzz words for small businesses in 2010, and it stands to reason that 2011 will be much the same. Still, you shouldn’t have a social media campaign just to have one. Over and over people think that having a Facebook or a twitter account is their gateway to thousands of new visitors.
Then after awhile they give up thinking that they just don’t get “social media”. The bottom line is that some markets just don’t need social media. Did I just commit blasphemy? Everybody needs a facebook fan page right?
I would say that every small and local business needs to be involved in social, but from a reputation management standpoint. For some markets Facebook isn’t going to make or break your business, but it will sure help your customers connect with you if they have a problem.
I love the ability to use twitter to keep people updated on recent happenings, but I definitely don’t expect it to be my main source of traffic. If you have a product that is viral or revolutionary, by all means tweet it and watch social at it’s best. But for most of the people I work with that just isn’t the case.
They are in a competitive market, and are just looking for more ways to get new customers. For that I’d say Google is still your best source of traffic.
The problem with most social platforms is they tend to be a replacement to the web. Don’t believe me? Create a facebook fan page for a website and watch how many people leave that fan page to interact on the website.
The majority of consumers on facebook are comfortable with it, and see no reason to leave to do their commenting, liking, and sharing. After all can you blame them? Is there anything they can do on your website that they can’t also do on facebook?
Well I can think of a few things like purchasing products, downloading software, and reading articles. But those are very specific things that all need to be taken into consideration before you dive head first into social media.
The most important thing you can do before going into any Social Media campaign is to drop all your unreasonable expectations.
Simply creating a Facebook Fan page will not skyrocket your business into the stratosphere overnight.
Creating buzz in an already noisy space can be challenging at times. High expectations can lead to discouragement early on, at a time when you should be allowing yourself a learning curve. Any form of digital marketing, including Social, takes a substantial investment in time and energy.
Build Brand Awareness Through Community
Brand awareness is a great benefit of a good Social Media strategy. Whether you are marketing to 1 or 1 million, you need to convey a message and work to create a community around it. That is why Facebook makes it so easy to advertise in small increments to build your brand.
The biggest mistake people make early on with Facebook is to constantly blast out there message, without engaging their target community at large. Key players in your niche are actively seeking out fresh content, if you build it they will come.
Don’t assume you have to be “in your face” for people to notice you. Authentic social communities stand out in a world of copy cats and spam.
Learning from Consumers
While everybody else is out there gunning for thousands of fans and followers, you can be quietly gathering the next million dollar idea. Consumer intelligence is everywhere, but all businesses seem to notice are the actual consumers.
You might only have a core group of 100 fans on Facebook, but what does that sample size tell you about the whole? Watch for trends, segments, and techniques that drive better bottom line results. You’ll begin to see how key members of a community can really move the needle for you.
Don’t be afraid to launch side projects, and always be testing. Forget about gold for a second, those who have the data make the rules.
Social Media is a great tool to have in your digital marketing arsenal, but it’s not an end all be all solution. Give yourself time to learn, and don’t be too disappointed when your first tweet doesn’t go viral overnight.
There are lots of people out there just like you, and some have been doing this a lot longer. The great thing is that Social Media is still free to use and relatively easy to understand.
So drop the expectations, work toward building a community, and gather consumer intelligence.