Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Using Social Media for the Success of Small and Medium Businesses

If there’s one aspect small and medium-sized businesses should look into, it’s social media marketing. And it is proving to be an integral part of today’s business landscape, adapting to the rapidly evolving socially-aware Web.

Word-of-mouth has been transmuted to real-time tweets. TV reportage has been elevated to live Web streams and on-demand videos. Generally pandering advertisements have been turned into messages especially targeted to specific members of the brand’s client base.

All these have set the stage for newer practices and technologies, bringing in much brand and product-driven successes than traditional marketing tactics could ever hope to achieve. True enough, social media has proven to be a stable marketing platform, so if your company has yet to jump onboard the dynamic phenomenon that is social media marketing, you are missing out on a lot of its great benefits.

Follow the Market
According to a recent study titled “What Do Americans Do Online,” social media has risen as the number one American pastime, beating all other online activities. In fact, the Internet Advertising Bureau agrees, even claiming that “If you’re not on a social networking site, you’re not on the Internet.”

Indeed, a massive social migration is taking place and this shouldn’t come as a surprise with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Ashton Kutcher driving social networking sites to massive popularity. As such, social media is where the consumers are, and that is where you should set your online marketing focus on.

Ramp up Your Presence
Unless you’re carrying a pretty popular brand, it may not be easy to find you online. So take the extra step by introducing your company and your products to social media by setting up a blog and then creating profiles on Facebook and Twitter, among others. That way, people who like your products can easily find and connect with you online—and you can even pull in untapped markets through their own contacts. These can also serve as effective search engine optimization tools to drive significant traffic to your Web site and help boost your client base.

If you have a physical store, you can also invite your customers to visit, shop and sample your products. To do this, you can have your location listed on geolocation services like Facebook Places, Yelp, Google Places and both Foursquare and Gowalla. These sites will allow you to include contact details, embed maps, photos and would allow subscribers to rate and review their visit; thus increases mentions online.

Better News Distribution
Naturally, as the number of followers grows on your social profiles, you can offer your demographic different ways to receive news updates about your products or any promotion you may have. With its easy accessibility and scalable publishing capabilities, social media offers many great distribution platforms like blogs, live chat rooms, multimedia streams and social networking status updates.

Most notable of these are Facebook’s News Feed and Twitter’s stream. Because they deliver your message in real-time, you provide your followers with the freshest updates as they come, and they can react immediately—by taking part, asking questions or by spreading your message to whoever they think would be interested in their own circles. These services would also let you embed relevant photos, videos and links to give better context to your message.

Improve Social Engagements
Traditional marketing tactics would dictate that we appeal to a majority of people within our demographic. Social media marketing, on the other hand, lets you target factions of any given group, or even specific individuals. By responding to comments on your Facebook’s Wall posts or on your blog’s entries, you can address the general needs of your audience and directly engage with individuals. And this can reflect positively on your brand, showing that you’re there to listen and can also serve as an extension of the customer service hotline.

While these will keep your followers informed, you can up the value your presence offers by also showing your own personality and share other relevant content online you think others will find interesting and useful.

Enhance Your Reputation
As with the nature of social media, everyone online is given a voice. And with it, they freely express their opinions about anything, whether they are singing their praises about a company or harshly criticizing it for its bad service. And this is one unavoidable fact that happens to all brands—whether you’re a top brass institution in your industry with a global presence, or a local cottage industry with a small but loyal customer base. In this regard, social media is just the tool you’ll need as you manage your reputation online.

You can level the playing field using its many messaging platforms, addressing concerns, clarifying issues and thanking commendations as they come. You can publish a response to a rising concern on your blog, link to it from Twitter or Facebook and maybe produce a video to assure your customers of your stance and the series of actions you will take to resolve the issue.


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