Social media lends a whole lot of help to small businesses

Many local companies are discovering that social networking sites offers excellent supplementary services that can perfectly complement offline or traditional marketing techniques. Indeed, the use of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, FourSquare, Yelp! and other platforms are excellent for use in tandem with search engine optimization, print media and other advertising tools.

However, there is an argument to be made that many organizations can market themselves almost entirely through social media websites. With only the additional use of promotional products or other targeted marketing tools, a small business that embraces the advantages of social networking can actually succeed in this day and age.

For example, CBC News recently profiled a small business owner in British Columbia, Canada, whose company has flourished thanks entirely to social online services. While that organization, Aura Beauty, took the form of a mobile beauty salon, many kinds of small businesses can use the following tips for transitioning to a fully online and social marketing strategy.

Give value
Small businesses can succeed when they use their Facebook profiles or Twitter feeds simply as platforms from which to broadcast news about events, discounts and deals, but they’ll need to do so in conjunction with other marketing techniques. Otherwise, consumers will only ever come into contact with commercial announcements that they may or may take note of.

Conversely, a marketing effort that focuses on social media will include things that customers find valuable outside of their advertising purposes. For example, an organization that displays a sense of humor and creates funny tweets or status updates is enjoyable for customers to follow. Such actions prove to the online public that a company is worth knowing and provides digital gifts on top of commercial news.

Review business models
Many companies likely have business plans that are quickly going out of date if they weren’t drafted in the past five years or so. That’s because the metrics by which returns on investment are calculated have changed a great deal since the modern internet and Web 2.0 have become prevalent. Consequently, while a marketing campaign that concentrates almost entirely on social media is probably less costly in general, the deployment of funds may need to be radically altered.

What this means is that it is likely a good idea to focus less on sales agents and marketing gurus and more on social media experts. The rapidly shifting workforce has since created the position of customer support that many businesses have begun to implement. A customer support specialist may simply answer client questions through social networking tools but will likely have additional responsibilities such as updating Twitter feeds and maintaining company blogs.

Build relationships
In many ways, traditional marketing (and even some modern online advertising) is about drawing in customers and keeping in contact with them by providing good value and quality service. While this is still important to do in the context of social media, what is even more important is to establish relationships with customers. After all – each of these social networking platforms began as ways for friends and family to stay in touch.

An excellent way to do this is by transitioning online relationships into real world connections. For example, after a company has established a good rapport with customers and followers, it could easily make promotional products and other savings available to regular followers. However, it should be done under the guise of giving presents to friends rather than rewarding leads, which is the last thing that social media followers would like to think of themselves as.

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