Social Media is often one of the most over-looked tools available to the small business owner. Some of the reasons that businesses do not include Social Media in their marketing campaigns is that they think it is just for teenagers or not for their type of business or that they just don't understand it. When used properly, social media can make a huge impact on keeping you connected with your customers.
First things first. You must understand that social media is a conversation. It is a place to share thoughts and ideas amongst our friends and associates. Just as you would do in a social gathering, you should not start a conversation then stop part way through, ignoring those who were listing to you. If you engage in social media, you must commit yourself to continue the effort even if you think no one is listening.
Bring value to your followers. Customers will include you in their network if you can provide a value to them. Perhaps you share your expert knowledge in your line of work, or you give special discounts to your followers in your network, or you even handle customer service through social media. One example of this that I use is the screen sharing function of Skype to show my clients how to work on their own websites empowering them to control their own web presence.
No Broadcasting. Social media does not equal self-promotion. Remember this is a conversation. No one wants to be stuck talking to the person who always thinks he has a better story than you, constantly one-upping you. We all know someone like that and do our best not to be around when they show up. If all you do is say how great you and your company are, your customers will soon tune you out and ignore everything you are saying. And I have yet to hear of a successful business plan being based on being ignored.
Have reasonable expectations. Don't expect to create a Facebook Like page and have 10,000 fans the next day. If it happens, congratulations, but it is unlikely. Like any good relationship you build your online reputation over time. You may find that your customers are not limited to your town or county, they can be from all over the world and by being in their network you are introducing your company to all the people in that network as well.
Social media isn't necessarily free. All you really need is a computer or mobile device, an internet connection and some time. That last one being the most expensive of the bunch. Most social media marketing plans fail because they were not given the adequate time to keep the customers engaged. Time is the one thing we never have enough of, but like keeping your books, running a social media marketing campaign requires you to dedicate time on a weekly, if not daily, basis. If you give yourself an hour a day for communicating with your customers over social media, you will build a strong network of loyal customers who will gladly go out and tell all of their friends how wonderful your company is. That's marketing that money can't buy.
Still not sure how social media can work for you. Call me and ask me to explain how Twitter can be a very effective business tool that you can take advantage of today.