Intimidation is keeping small businesses from using social media as a marketing tool. There are so many choices and things seem so complicated. Let’s simplify by selecting what you should you use and how should you use it.
What is Social Media?
Social media are the online social tools that everyday people use to connect, communicate, support each other and share ideas, information and products. Social Media can also be effective marketing tools for small business, if used in the same manner. Some of the most popular social media channels are YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter. Social media also include blogs and special online niche communities such as the KiteSports Circle, Africa’s premier kitesurfing and kiteboarding community.
Your two challenges are which tool to use, and how to use that tool for marketing.
Choosing A Social Media Tool
You have four broad categories from which to choose: Video, Communities, Blogs and Social Networks. The social media channel you use for marketing is dictated by your marketing challenge. In their best-selling book Groundswell, authors Charline Li and Josh Bernoff recommend choosing the right social technology platform based on one of four marketing problems. Your problem will point you in the right social media direction.
- Awareness problem – People don’t know about you.
- Word-of-Mouth problem – You need people to talk to each other.
- Complexity problem – You have complicated messages to communicate.
- Accessibility problem – It’s difficult for you and your customers to reach each other.
Use online videos to get attention. Videos are great for punching through the noise and getting you noticed. Much of the hype of online video is focused on so called viral video. Viral videos are usually surprising, shocking, outrageous videos that capture the attention of millions of people around the world. But it is very difficult to make a real viral video and they are not necessary to for small businesses. Instead, I recommend that you aim to create helpful, interesting videos on topics which customers might search. One example is this video from Sykora Family Ford on how to set a clock on various Ford cars. (Click here if you don’t see the video)
Video is not something you don’t dabble in. Committing to video means regular updates and periodically producing new videos. To get started, create a YouTube channel, and then customize the Channel to fit your brand. An excellent example of video is the YouTube channel by Metamorphosis Day Spa in New York City.
Use online social networks to create hot conversations. One of the secrets to word of mouth is giving people the opportunity to talk about you. If you deliver a remarkable experience to passionate customers, create a social network. This network becomes a conversation playground and a word-of-mouth platform. Caution, only create an online community if you have a business or an experience that would inspire people to gather and talk.
You can create a personalized online community for free using Ning. Creating a community takes an investment of time to monitor and police the activity. You should also stimulate the conversation and occasionally participate. Here is an example of a Ning online community with more than 170 members for the Charly M disco in Nuremberg, Germany.
Use blogs to explain stuff and help people make decisions. The term blog is short for web-log. You are reading a blog right now. I use The Marketing Spot blog to explain small business marketing. It’s my online marketing column. Blogs are great for going into detail about complex or interesting subjects such as marketing. But they are also great search engine magnets. The more blog “posts” you write, the more content you have for search engines to find. Blogs also build credibility and display expertise
Be aware that having a blog is like having a baby. It takes care and nurturing. You have to feed it with content regularly and pay it attention when it talks to you through comments. A nice example of a business blog is Sandy’s Destination Wedding blog for her business: Weddings in Vieques.
Use open social communities to give and gain personal access to customers. This personal access keeps you connected with customers and creates a stronger relationship. In turn, you create customer loyalty. Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are three of the hottest, and most useful, social networks for connecting with customers.
The Texas State Technical College (TSTC) system has nearly 15,000 students, a potential accessibility problem. TSTC has connected with current and prospective students by creating a TSTC Facebook and TSTC MySpace account. High school student use the TSTC MySpace page to ask questions and see pictures of the campus. Potential students 18 years old and up use the TSTC Facebook to do the same.
Realtor Dan Rothamel of Palmyra, Virginia says he uses his Facebook account almost every day to market himself, and by extension, his Strong Team Realtors business. By networking with real-estate related professionals on Facebook, such as an appraiser, Dan has directly gained new clients.
Twitter is another social network gaining popularity. One of the more famous business accessibility uses of Twitter is Kogi Korean BBQ in Los Angeles. The company uses it’s Kogi Twitter account to announce the location of its Korean BBQ taco truck. Crowds show up where ever they go.
Moving Forward With Social Media
So now you have an idea of what you should do for social media marketing. But the most important part is how you do it. Li and Bernoff advise that you “Create a presence that encourages interaction.” You can’t just create a Facebook page and then leave it unattended. Using social media as another advertising tool is a waste of time. After all, the term is “Social” media. So if you’re willing to be social, customers are ready to respond.