Small businesses are big fans of digital media when it comes to local advertising and marketing, and for good reason. A recent survey of small- to medium-size businesses found that 70 percent of respondents expect social media to generate leads, 57 percent expect it to build brand awareness, and 57 percent expect it to engage their customers. With targeted social media ads and email marketing campaigns, you can effectively hone in on certain groups in a way that you can’t with more traditional methods like TV, radio, or newspaper ads. But that doesn’t mean you can just create a Facebook page and expect customers to start flooding in. You have to invest in your social media and digital marketing efforts to see results. Here’s how to move the needle:
Find a focus.
Your social media presence shouldn’t begin and end with Facebook. Look to your business and clientele to inform your focus. For example, if you run a boutique or salon, visuals are key, so Instagram can be a powerful tool for showcasing your products and work. If you don’t have someone dedicated to managing your social media presence, think about which social media platform it makes the most sense to concentrate on. It might seem like you should just open an account on every social media platform, but that can backfire. If customers are trying to reach you through Twitter or complaining about a bad experience on Facebook, and you’re too overwhelmed to respond or resolve the issue quickly, your social efforts can backfire.
A survey of more than 500 small businesses found that 38 percent of respondents said they haven’t seen a return on the money they’ve invested in social media campaigns. However, the same survey found that 55 percent of respondents are not using any type of marketing dashboard. So it doesn’t mean these business owners haven’t actually experienced a return on their investment. They just don’t have the analytics to know one way or the other. Analytics are becoming serious business: In the next few years, marketing analytics will account for 11.7 percent of marketing budgets, an 83 percent increase, according to a survey. Without analyzing metrics, it’s impossible to measure marketing success.
Setting up social media accounts doesn’t translate into instant results; instead, come up with a long-term strategy. First you have to establish your company’s online presence, gaining followers and engaging with your audience. Your social media accounts shouldn’t be used solely for promoting your brand, either. You should also use them for purposes like addressing customer questions and even highlighting local events like charity fundraisers to act as a good neighbor in the community.
Integrate marketing efforts.
Social media alone might not be enough to promote your business, but it’s a powerful tool when used to support other marketing efforts, like email campaigns, sweepstakes, and loyalty programs. Email newsletters are a great way to reach out to your customers with special offers and news, and some email marketing tools allow you to further target your messages with lists like “customers who have shopped with you in the last six weeks.” Plus, in your newsletter you can let customers know where they can find you on social media and make it worth their while to follow you by offering deals like exclusive discount codes on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Overcome your fears.
As much as some small businesses are embracing social media, others are shying away from it based on some bad experiences. But ignoring it won’t make it go away, and it certainly won’t help your business. A survey found that some of the issues small business owners have with social media include having found it too time consuming, complicated, and damaging to their image in the past. If you share any of these concerns, take it slowly and try consulting with someone who has experience managing social media for small businesses. If you don’t engage with customers online, you’re losing out on the opportunity to respond to criticism or to resolve issues. You’re also missing out on the chance to make your company’s voice heard on the most powerful platforms available.