Small businesses may benefit from better social media marketing

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With hundreds of millions of customers using dozens of social media platforms, a small business owner may benefit by using social media

Many business owners have at least a vague idea about how to run a conventional marketing campaign - create an attractive ad, and then plaster it on posters, websites, newspapers, magazines, radios, and TV.

Social media marketing, on the other hand, is a bit more foreign. It's a relatively new concept, which, despite being utilized very successfully by bigger companies, has managed to stump a lot of Candian small business owners. In a recent survey conducted by Employers, only 16 percent of small business owners actually used social media marketing.

Many small business owners just don't understand how many people can be reached by social media. In another survey conducted by Ad-ology, as reported by MarketingProfs.com, 31 percent of business owners don't think their customers use social media. The fact of the matter is, though, that more than 400 million people have Facebook accounts and 75 million people have Twitter accounts, so quite clearly social media has a large following. Another study, conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey, shows that customers who follow a product on Twitter are 79 percent more likely to recommend a brand to someone else, while 67 percent are more likely to buy that brand themselves. It's quite clear that by engaging customers with social media, a business owner could see tremendous results.

Once a business owner has come to the decision to use social media, the first step is signing up to the various social media outlets. There are dozens of social media outlets to sign up for, but for starters, a business should register with at least Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, depending on what a business is trying to accomplish. While Twitter and Facebook may be good tools for brand exposure and communicating with customers, they aren't particularly good at driving traffic to a website. Conversely, while Digg and StumpleUpon may drive traffic to a small business' website, fan communication is limited. The key lies in using the various platforms in ways that complement each other.

After signing up, a business owner should begin to expand their network. In an article for Mashable.com, Ross Kimbarovsky says that the best way to do that is to join conversations about a business owner's company. On Twitter or YouTube, that means searching for the company. If there are no conversations happening, then join general industry conversations. By establishing themselves as a thought leader, a business owner can gain a reputation within an industry, which will lead to fans, says Kimbarovsky.

If a business owner wants the audience that they have accrued to stick around, they must give them something of value, says Peter Wylie in a recent article for SocialMediaExaminers.com. One way he recommends doing this is by offering promotional materials, like free gifts or coupons, exclusively to customers that follow a company's social media efforts. If a business doesn't have the budget for special offers, than they need to offer something else of value, like industry insight.

For business owners that are still unsure how to use social media, Wylie recommends they get ideas by checking out how their competition utilizes it. If a business owner's competition isn't using social media, then that puts them ahead already. If they are, Wylie advises studying the tactics they use to increase their fan base.

The most important thing to remember about social media is that it's social. Unlike traditional ad campaigns, where the business owner is sending a one-way message to a consumer, social media is about having two-way conversations. Marketing is an important aspect of any business, and by utilizing social media efficiently, a business owner may be able to reach a whole new segment of customers.




 

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