Back in the day of small towns and dusty “main streets”, word of mouth was what kept the small business owners alive.
That began to change as towns became cities, suburban sprawl developed, and mammoth shopping malls were built. The concept of marketing your small to medium sized business to individuals quickly became a thing of the past.
Well, word of mouth marketing, more commonly known as social media marketing, is back – and it’s more immediate and powerful than ever before.
The customer rules the marketplace today, and if you’re not actively building a presence in the social space, you will be left behind.
The 3 most important reasons small businesses leverage social media are:
- Connecting with customers
Over the last few years, with advancements in mobile technology, social media marketing has changed how companies interact with customers and, more importantly, how customers interact with companies.
Social business conversations happen online, every second of every day, and you need to be listening. Online marketing – or social media marketing – is an extremely cost effective tool.
Social media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms help you connect and communicate with prospective clients. Sharing links and articles with your fans and followers establishes you as a trusted industry thought leader.
And short videos, photos, and video testimonials shared with your community clearly show your brand personality.
That’s Too Much Work!
If you think that it all sounds like just too much work – you’re mistaken. Here’s an interesting statistic: mathematically, it only takes 20 people to drive increased interaction and sharing. The possibilities are endless, and if you play your cards right soon those 20 will grow to 2000.
That said, there are rules and guidelines that you should know before jumping into the social space.
What If I Blow It?
There’s an essential place for certain rules in our everyday society – if not we would all be living a la Lord of The Flies in our respective neighbourhoods.
There are just things you *don’t do*, out of respect and consideration for the people around you. It’s not much different in the social media marketing space.
Think of it as a cocktail party, or a business meeting. Take the same instincts and gut checks you would use in real life when interacting with people, and transfer them to your online marketing strategy.
- Be Respectful: Show respect, same as you were taught at your parents’ knee. Get a feel for your community, before plowing in with sales pitches or comments. Add value to their conversations. And learn when the fun starts – some Twitter communities are fun and frisky all day on Fridays – no surprise there.
- Be Yourself: Social media is about your – or your brand’s – voice and personality. When you fake it, it shows. If the offline you and the online you don’t match you will eventually be found out.
- Be Human: Everyone in this space is a human being. Some are more accomplished than others. Some are nicer than others. Just like out there in the real world. And because you’re human as well, you will make mistakes. But if you are genuine, have allowed time to cultivate and befriend your community, and treated them with the respect they deserve, you will find you have a group of fiercely loyal brand advocates ready to rise up in your defense. Then, just like in real life, you will be able to laugh it off and chalk it up to a learning experience.
In a nutshell, it’s best to keep your online small business marketing simple, real, trustworthy and honest.
Respond quickly to customers’ complaints or questions. Give them the same level of customer service online as you would offline. Share your latest news and company information with them, but keep it friendly and not spammy. And be consistent.
You will soon see a healthy, engaged brand loyal community of fans and followers, who are more than willing to tell all their friends and followers about you, as well as give your company the online ‘word of mouth’ traction that every company desires.