Getting the word out about your company is one of the biggest challenges for small business owners today. No matter how great your product is, it can be hard to get noticed when your marketing budget is a fraction of the size of your bigger competitors.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to even the score. With websites like LinkedIn , Facebook , Twitter , Instagram , Periscope , and more being developed each day, it has never been easier to get more bang for your buck and to use social networking to your advantage.
People Give Money to People
It’s an old fundraising adage that people give money to people. This is not to say that a great idea doesn’t help, but at the end of the day the thing that’s going to attract customers to your brand and keep them coming back is a personal connection.
Social networking helps you make a personal connection by allowing you to give your followers access to a behind-the-scenes look at your business. The swanky Providence-based restaurant North’s Twitter feed is a great example of this kind of approach—almost every post has an image of a new menu, fresh ingredients, or a delicious-looking new dish. Including images is a key strategy for increasing intimacy and creating more effective and shareable social media content .
At the same time, customers will often go to your social media pages as their first attempt to reach out for customer service assistance. This gives you an opportunity to make an individual connection, solve the problem, and turn customers into enthusiastic advocates for your business.
Social Networking to Help Each Other Learn
In a small business you often wear many hats. You’re running the day-to-day operations, doing the financials, maybe even designing and updating the website. We’re often in a situation where we need information to troubleshoot a problem, but don’t have an expert on-hand or the resources to hire one.
Social media can help with this kind of situations by providing you with a network of peers to ask questions. It could be that another small business owner you’re connected to ran across the very same problem last year.
A study of small and midsized businesses commissioned by LinkedIn found that about half of businesses surveyed used social media as a learning tool: to discover best practices, learn from experts, and get answers to any questions that have come up while running their business.
Social Networking is Cost Effective
At the end of the day, social networking is a good choice for small business owners because it is cost effective. CIO’s writeup of inexpensive ways to boost impact includes figuring ways to incentivize sharing by offering referral discounts, targeting key influencers with free samples, co-marketing, and listing with Help A Reporter Out to offer media opportunities and get better press coverage.
Social networking is powerful because it is infinitely scalable. With the right approach your message can be shared over and over again. Something like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge combined several of these approaches, mixing a strong and personalized image (your friend getting a bucket of ice water dumped on them) with an incentive to share it (you challenge your friends to do the same). The campaign has raised over $115 million to date.
Finally, the LinkedIn study found there was a strong correlation between social media spending and small businesses that were experiencing “hyper growth,” meaning they had significant year-to-year increases in revenue. Taken as a group, these businesses have increased their spending for one simple reason: social media networking works for them, and it can work for you too.
Martin Jones, “Why Social Networking Matters For Small Business Owners” Forbes, May 11 2016. Accessed via: http://www.forbes.com/sites/coxbusiness/2016/05/11/why-social-networking-matters-for-small-business-owners/?strref=http:%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com#2b1fb70c5466