When it comes to writing about the positive impact of social media for companies, and for small business in particular, it would be quite easy to churn out the usual spin that already fills the Internet and social media platforms themselves.
Social media companies promise to boost loyal followers, leading to more sales, because that’s what all companies want in the end, isn’t it? Why else would companies waste their valuable time and limited resources on social media campaigns? If only life was that simple!
Social media can have a positive impact on sales but it’s not often about direct sales and it’s not often about quick wins either, despite what some marketing companies will have you believe. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth the time, the effort and the relatively small financial outlay. On the contrary, the actual benefits and impacts are hugely rewarding and stand to make you some significant long-term gains.
In this article, 2Sprout in Milton Keynes is pleased to share with you 6 truths about social media marketing impacts, without the hype. If you’d like to know what the real (and realistic) benefits are for small business, then read on!
1. Increase Brand Awareness
OK, so that’s fancy marketing speak for getting your company name out there into cyberspace, where all of your potential future customers are hanging out.
To put it simply, if you’re a yoga teacher, a locksmith, an electrician or a plumber, whenever a future client wants to finally sign up for their first yoga class, have a lock repaired urgently, install some new lighting or unblock that drain, you want them to remember that you exist, that you’re an option for them.
You’ll achieve this by investing time in building relationships with your social media followers. It will drive sales but it’s an organic process, not a direct sales channel.
2. Develop a Loyal Community
We all love being part of communities. It’s part of what makes us human, creating emotional connections with people who are like us in some form or other.
But how do you connect emotionally with people about their house cleaning needs, their car repair requirements or their building projects? In short, you don’t have to. What’s important is that you do connect on some level.
It’s partly about finding out what potential customers need and making sure your products and services respond to those needs. It’s also about recognising the interests your potential customers have and taking an interest in their interests. Also, it’s about sharing something about you, your personal interests, lifestyle and motivations because, whatever gets you interested, you can guarantee those interests will resonate with lots of your potential clients too.
Taking this approach, you’re no longer just a company, you’re a real person, someone that people want to feel connected to.
3. Improve Customer Service
You may have noticed through online forums, blogs and responses to online press and magazines that people tend to be much more frank online, ‘brutally honest’ in some cases. If clients don’t like something, many are willing to shout loudly about it through social media.
What distinguishes successful and unsuccessful social media strategies is the speed and willingness to resolve customer issues and complaints. Handling a complaint quickly and with integrity sends a massively positive message to the particular customer, to all your other followers, and not to mention everyone that those customers are sharing the successful outcome with. You are massively boosting your trustworthiness by reacting this way.
Ignoring, blocking, hiding or getting defensive about complaints is a massive no-no on social media and a wasted opportunity to showcase your excellent customer service. Remember, if you get this wrong, your customers and followers will be even quicker to share your bad practice widely across their social networks.
4. Boost Traffic and Search Engine Rank
Most companies, even those that have very little online presence, understand the notion that when someone searches for services or products like yours through a search engine, primarily Google these days, you want to be ranked high in the search results.
As humans, our attention span is very short. Many searchers ignore the paid adverts and look for the few top ranking sites immediately after these. Very few make it to the second page of search results – unless they’re looking for something very niche.
Now, there’s a multitude of websites and forums and social media gurus out their in cyberspace that will promise to get you into the top 10 if you just follow their technique. Getting the right titles, descriptions and tags on your pages and posts will certainly make a difference, but ultimately what makes the biggest difference is having relevant content that people are interested in.
That means adding new and interesting content to your website on a regular basis and, just as importantly, announcing it to your social media followers. – these are give-aways, not sales. It’s going to cost you time to do this, but it’s worth it. The result is a steady flow of followers popping in and out of your website on a regular basis to check out what you want to share with them.
This relevant content and flow of traffic is one of the best things you can do to boost your search engine ranking. It’s not the only thing – there’s much more you can do to optimise your site for search engines – but that’s another article for another day!
5. Cut Marketing Costs
One of the very best cases for making use of social media is that the platforms themselves are free. Oh, and did we mention that there are millions of people using them, thousands in your neighbourhood and probably hundreds of those that will be looking for the very products or services that you offer. There is really no better way today to reach a mass market for such little cost.
But there is a cost…it’s all the time you need to invest in building those relationships, posting interesting and relevant content, responding to queries and commenting, liking and sharing what others are posting…in other words, the time it takes to be part of an active community, that just so happens to be online.
At the same time, with a clever and creative social media marketing plan, there’s no reason for you to have to sit and monitor your social media accounts all day. You have work to do, after all, don’t you?! This is where social media companies can really make a difference for you – taking the strain by helping to manage your content to help build your following.
Old forms of marketing have not disappeared completely, but social media has completely overtaken print media, the previous dominant form for small business, while most small business can’t afford the medium-level price tag of radio and the very high-level price tag of television that big companies still invest in heavily.
6. Increase Sales
So, having said at the start that increasing sales is by no means a quick win, it’s still an outcome of all the other listed benefits. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that a company with greater brand awareness, customer loyalty, great customer service and increased findability, is going to stand out above their competitors.
When the time comes to replace the fan in their oven, to buy some new window blinds, to finally sort out that life insurnace or to buy that shiny new product that they’ve had their eye on for the past year but just couldn’t afford until now, prospective customers are much more likely to give their business to the company that’s familiar to them, that has good ratings from its current customers, that their experience tells them is knowledgeable and trustworthy and that they already feel a connection to. By increasing your customer base in this way, increased sales will naturally follow.
So that’s our (somewhat extended) article on our 6 truths about social media marketing, without the hype! We hope you enjoyed it. What do you think? Do you agree? What else is important in your experience? Please comment below and feel free to subscribe to future comments or new blog posts by ticking the relevant boxes below the comment form.