social media in business
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Marketing on Social Networks

Chris Hambly's picture
Submitted by Chris Hambly on 7 September 2010 - 11:14am

These are tough times and anyone in business must use every tool at their disposal to reach customers. Many businesses are still leery about venturing into social networks because they don’t see the utility. There are many advantages to using the web to understand and influence consumer behaviour .

While corporations have access to professional PR firms and can spend millions on traditional advertising along with pay-per-click (PPC) ads online, for a small business it requires more of an investment in time rather than money. It is certainly not enough to have a tricked out website full of java and other special effects. By having pages on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc a business can grow a customer base outside of its physical limitations by building online communities.

Viral campaigns are often more effective than traditional advertising methods. People are more often influenced by the input of others within their social group rather than being told “you must have this” from the advertiser. There is the established trust within the group and this can be the best word of mouth because often it can travel faster than using television, radio, or print advertising.

It isn’t enough to set up pages every where and fill them with content. As new people join the fan page or become followers this can generate additional traffic to your website so they can find out what the company has to offer. You have to make it worthwhile for your followers to keep coming back. Campaigns should be interactive. Offerings of coupons or advance notice on product launches makes the fans/followers feel like they are appreciated by the company. Featuring a specific product or customer submission will encourage followers to return and tell others so they may participate. Informing customers of events the company may be sponsoring or participating in in the customer’s town or city can also generate additional foot traffic to the business’s physical space too.

Don’t rule out any opportunity to contact a customer. The 140 character limitations of Twitter doesn’t have to be a drawback. It can be used to get information out quickly to many followers at the last minute rather than updating a blog or website or sending out a mass email. For example, food trucks around the country often use Twitter to let their customers know what street they will be on for the day or if they are being held up by traffic. By the time they arrive at the location, there is often a line of returning and new customers awaiting their arrival.

As a small business owner you should make time to develop a marketing plan that includes social networking. If you already know your customer base consider it an extension of your existing marketing options. Results may not be immediate but the end product can bring in a steady ever increasing presence on the web because you have built trust and a good reputation in your online communities.

Suggested reading:

  • The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Market, Sell, and Innovate, (Paperback), Clara Shih; Price: £8.99
  • Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business, (Hardcover), Larry Weber £10.68