The first in a new series, Tara Punter – of Tara Punter PR – shares her expertise on how to use social media as a tool to grow your business.
Roughly 94% of small businesses use social media as a marketing tool, and for very good reason. Social media can help you launch a new business, product or service, or help you to grow an existing one. If you are established, social media can help you to improve customer service and set you apart from the competition. Read our 5 reasons why you should be using social media now:
To raise brand awareness
Brand awareness can be overlooked by small businesses who are focused on selling, but time spent working to raise brand awareness is time very well spent. It doesn’t matter if your business is the best one around – the best tack shop, the best livery yard or the best competition centre – if you aren’t visible, recognisable and trusted then people are less likely engage with you.
Brand awareness is the process of getting your name and logo out there and associated with a trusted business offering, and social media is an excellent tool to help you. The percentage of customers who check out a small business on social media before engaging with them is rising year on year, so make sure you have an up-to-date and branded social media presence!
To gain new followers and fans
Clearly a critical part of using social media for business is to gain followers and fans. These people are not only your existing and future customers, they are also the people who help you to extend your reach and spread the word about what you do.
For example, if the happy customer of a farrier shares a before and after pic of their horse’s feet (there’s always one who pulls a shoe off the night before a competition…) from the farrier’s Facebook page, more people will see the fantastic work and speedy customer service that farrier offers, and they will likely get more followers and therefore more exposure. Customers are the single most important thing to small businesses, so survival depends on reaching existing customers and bringing in new ones.
To get an excellent return on investment
Compared to traditional advertising, where it can be tricky to judge the impact of paid advertising, social media represents outstanding value for money for the small business. Setting up a Facebook page, Instagram account or Twitter feed is absolutely free and gives you direct access to your market.
Once upon a time, marketers and advertising executives would have cut off a limb to access free channels of communication with such impressive reach and now that tool is at your disposal, to use as you wish! If you do have some advertising budget to spend, you’ll find social media advertising is cheaper than traditional models, very effective and you can tailor it to suit your budget month-on-month.
To increase sales
Social media provides an extraordinary marketing tool, allowing you to easily demonstrate how your business works and what sets you apart from the competition. For example, a riding school offering summer riding camps for adults could post videos and images of the fun people have on a camp and the progress they make in a week, and then advertise an early bird offer for the next camp they are holding.
Retail businesses can use social media as a virtual shop window to showcase their products and advertise new ranges, and answer questions about the product and the options its available in. Which brings us on to our next point…
To build a relationship with your customers
Social is a two-way street, making it an invaluable customer service and analytics tool to measure what works and what doesn’t work in your business from the customer’s perspective. Positive feedback from customers helps build trust in your brand and persuades people to take that step from follower to customer.
If you are prepared to listen to negative feedback (provided is it reasonable and not someone who has simply had a bad day taking it out on you!) and, if necessary, make small changes then you can deliver what your customers need and want every time. For example, if you are selling equestrian products online and receive negative comments about the parcel delivery or postal service you use, that’s a chance to fix a problem. If you don’t have channels of communication open, the chances are those people who simply never buy from you again.
So where to start with social media?
Working out which social networks you want to focus on is a good start – Instagram or Pinterest are particularly useful for image-rich businesses, for example equine photographers or lifestyle brands. Twitter can be a fabulous tool for helping to position yourself as a thought-leader as it is can be so conversational, and one can re-tweet content and links that support your point of view.
Demographics are important – by the end of April 2018, 90% of Instagram users were under 35, so if your target demographic is slightly older, perhaps look at Facebook, where you’ll find the baby boomers!
Given that social networks are free to set up, it really is worth getting online and having a go! You can trial each network to see which is the best fit for your business and when you find the one that’s the best fit for you, watch your business grow and develop.
If you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed please do get in touch. We offer a free 15 minute exploratory call to help set you in the right direction with some simple tips to help get you started. Alternately if it really is a minefield perhaps look into outsourcing or investing in a training session. It will pay dividends in the long run.