When sales are low and paying for traditional advertising, like newspaper ads and fliers, is pushing your small business further into debt, perhaps it’s time to embrace social media.
Social media offers free platforms to advertise, brand and build your business. Learn how to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and other social networks to increase profits and hopefully start paying off the loans that are weighing your business down.
Social Media Marketing Increases Sales
A virtual presence makes a difference.
In 2012, 73 percent of Fortune 500 companies used Twitter and more than 80 percent of executives operated on the principle that social media use resulted in increased sales, according to the Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research and The Economist.
If you haven’t already jumped on the social media bandwagon, you’re missing out. For those of you breaking into this territory, social media use refers to the participation in virtual communities using mobile and web technology. Instead of getting into more credit card debt to pay advertising bills, use social media to network with new consumers eager to purchase your products and services.
Utilizing these resources will allow your small business to communicate with consumers at no cost, while creating engaging relationships. As more companies begin to take advantage of social media, it is important to make sure you are creating dynamic profiles, continually updating your sites and interacting effectively.
You can use Facebook, Google+ and Twitter to build a following by regularly sharing important or interesting industry news, exciting changes and relevant product offerings from your small business.
Schedule Social Media Posts
To make sure that you are regularly posting, make an editorial calendar that provides the time to research and create quality posts. You can even use programs that will allow you to write posts ahead of time and publish them on specified dates. With Facebook all you need to do is type in a post and change the date at the bottom or the posting box to put out a future message.
You can also download TweetDeck for free to schedule posts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Other free programs to checkout include HootSuite and LaterBro. Play around with different programs to see which one best fits your business needs.
Also, as you begin to participate in more social networks, you will want to make sure your time is divided up intentionally.
Go Forth and Tweet
Twitter is an excellent place to get customer feedback. Ask questions to find out what consumers specifically value about your business. Improve products you already offer by learning what doesn’t work for users.
Engaging with users shows that you take their opinions seriously and are interested in what they have to say.
You can also use Twitter to address complaints immediately. While publicly handling frustrations shows consumers you care, you also might consider taking some conversations offline, especially if you suspect they might become heated.
All it takes is a brief and timely response to demonstrate that you listen and take action when there are problems.
Use Pictures to Sell Your Product
Facebook, Pinterest, Google + and Instagram are perfect for sharing images of your products and services with potential consumers. Using art and creativity can get people interested in your company and encourage them to share those pictures of products with their friends. All it takes is some snaps from your smartphone.
If you can, post company pictures of what goes on behind the scenes. Providing photos of employees at work or in a more relaxed setting, offers a personal connection to viewers, so that they can see a face, not just a name and job title on “About Us” webpages.
Videos Engage the Viewer
Increase sales by posting videos on YouTube and linking your website in the description. Not only can you showcase your products and services, but you can also provide how-to videos on other subjects relevant to your industry.
While you’re on YouTube, take time to comment on videos related to your field. This will promote your brand, getting your name and ideas out there for others to see.
Use Social Media Analytic Tools
As you begin to utilize various social media networks, be sure to measure results to see the performance of each network. If one network is not getting results, either take a different approach or focus on the more successful networks.
Analytical tools to measure your results are available as free or purchased services. You can begin with the free services, but if you are spending a lot of time building your social media presence, you may eventually want to pay a small fee to monitor your activity. Free analytic tools for Facebook include Minilytics and Fan Page Insights. Measure your Twitter activity using TweetReach, TwitterCounter or TweetStats.
Foster User-Generated Content
Have consumers compete by posting their own videos and pictures where your product is incorporated into their lives. This promotes artistic engagement and originality, allowing each user to showcase their personality, while showing off your products.
Make sure to set clear guidelines and goals for these contests. You can offer newer items you sell as prizes in order to introduce users to unfamiliar products or services.
Share, Share, Share
As friends on networks put up interesting content and images that relate to your product, be sure to retweet, share and like their activities. Being an active participant in a community means paying attention to what others are doing.
Retweeting, liking and sharing also puts your name out there, showing preferences and endorsement. Be careful to not share information that will bring negative attention to your business.
Creating Your Brand
Maintain a consistent voice, tone and persona in all your social media. The communities you’re involved with on Google+, the avatar you use for Twitter and the types of images you have on Facebook should create a unified picture of your small business.
In the end, users should feel they are getting to know you, your products and want to be active in your social circle. Make this social media persona fun, transparent and accessible, not just a sales pitch to boost business.
Alanna Ritchie is a content writer for Debt.org, where she writes about personal finance and little smart ways to spend (and save) money. Alanna has an English degree from Rollins College.