Small businesses and businesses in general, can boost up their sales and increase customer retention and brand loyalty through using vast variety of social networking sites and their tools and options.
Many of the small businesses have greatly benefited from their presence on various social networking sites and blogs. Customers can easily visit their websites and purchase different products and services offered. In fact, small businesses have declared on various forums that social media has played a major role in the recent expansion of their businesses. Although it is difficult to assess the standard performance of a certain social media strategy, it is the fact that majority of businesses are experiencing an increase in their sales originating from their social media engagements.
Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are considered to be the new promising Holy Grail in the field of business online marketing. Therefore, the question of the day is not “do you have a website” but “do you have a Facebook or Twitter or YouTube or some other social media account?”
The first and foremost thing that needs to be kept in mind when speaking of small businesses and professionals, is their belief that social media marketing and advertising will result in direct enhancement of their sales figures. There are various examples which can prove this assertion. For instance Sony reported $1 million in sales in February 2010, directly linked to the use of their Twitter account. Dell reported in June 2010, that their presence on Twitter earned additional $3 million in sales.
There is an argument that Dell, Sony, and other large firms are huge companies with massive capitals and advertising budgets at their disposal. So no wonder they check those sales results. They are bound to make profits from social media due to their investments. However, many of the smaller companies have also experienced enhancements in revenues because of the use of social media. A recent study carried out by the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business reported that one in five small businesses are using social media as part of their business marketing strategies. The million dollar question that is raised now is “How social media can increase sales for small businesses”?
First, tools of social media web sites enable small business and professionals’ access to millions of people from all around the world at no cost. A commercial on television can also provide coverage of lots of people but not all around the world. In addition, TV ads will be expensive and will not allow any interaction with viewers, other than providing phone number and website address.
On the contrary, one tweet from Twitter can reach millions of people, instantaneously, inexpensively and interactively, everywhere humans live. Because of this “comfort”, customer base widens and allows sales figures to rise. In addition, people from different backgrounds also respond to these tweets which may open up a forum for customer Interactions and eventually customer insights. Tweeting firm’s new offerings is a free advertisement and if done creatively, can most definitely influence and increase company’s sales.
In order to maintain consumers’ interest and to attract more and new followers, companies and professionals need to keep on updating their blog posts, tweets, and post regularly, frequently and appropriately. This sometimes requires a team of several employees who need to become knowledgeable and became experts in the area of social media marketing. By regularly updating the Information on their social media sites companies will be able to engage visitors, consumers and customers.
It is Important to figure out the type of content that needs to be offered to different types of customers. After determining the type of customers, the content offered has to be fresh, valuable, interesting and appealing to them.
If the content is old and irrelevant followers that could be engaged will only be spammers and people looking for reciprocal follows, rarely people who have any purchasing intentions.
Two way communications is the key difference between social media and conventional marketing channels. There has to exist two-way discussion between the professional social media marketing people and prospects and other kinds of visitors, whereby updates and submits should be in the form of responses to questions, complaints and suggestions.
The higher the effectiveness in dealings and conversations with consumers, higher will be the sales numbers along with customer loyalty. The important element is that there has to be some follow up to the comments, suggestions or complaints from the prospects.
If the company fails there, soon people will stop following that company or its brand, as they will have perception that the company is not listening and valuing their inputs.
There is an important difference between the kind or flavor of platforms and kind of users they attract. For instance, if a product is a music instrument which sells to musicians, then most likely resources will be put in social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. On the other side, if it is a fine dine restaurant in one of the premier locations, then focus of resources has to shift to LinkedIn or Facebook with some participation of conventional media in both cases.
With the introduction of social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, the importance of email lists has become simpler. It is not that difficult to capture email addresses and names mentioned on Twitter or Facebook or other pages and sites.
An appealing video along with some new fancy free offer can easily collect visitor’s names and emails. As soon as users are opt-ins, they are saved in the company’s database from where they will be categorized into various kinds and types of groups.
Companies can then easily get in touch with each group through automatic email marketing campaigns. This option will enable businesses to promote their products and services to those lists, rather than directly involving sales approach on social webs.
There will be an amalgamation of social media and business analytics coined as socialytics. Many of small businesses will be using sophisticated tools to study and monitor consumer habits and developing trends on social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others.
Social media platforms avail marketing concepts that can became viral in nature. At the initial stage, word-of-mouth marketing and advertising is the best marketing tool for small companies who are largely dependent on good comments and recommendations from their customers and clients. Sharing those words and recommendations among customers, friends and circles of influence is of great benefit to small companies.
Same concept is applied to social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. Positive and sometimes not so positive reviews are floating on different websites along with consumers writing posts and comments.
Those tweets and comments are then re-tweeted and shared across the social web universe. In this way, whole social community would become aware of it, hence creating further potential customers.
Satisfied and happy customers become company’s best marketing department. This can obviously result in increased brand awareness, and initiate a whole new wave of interest and new inquires.
Consumers who regularly shop online are always on the lookout for best products and services, also best deals.
There are hundreds of shopping websites that customers will be interested in. Nevertheless, small businesses and professionals which are equipped with better social media marketing strategies and portray commitment and openness will have higher chance of attracting customers and increasing their sales.
Most people prefer to have trade with small businesses, because they firmly believe that these companies have more of a personal touch. If there is continuous interaction with consumers on Facebook or Twitter, it increases retention rate in the minds of the consumers.
To make it possible, companies are required to put up original and interesting contents in order to attract consumers to their websites, and open an opportunity to introduce themselves, their products, philosophy and what have you, and start a relation driven conversation.
Interaction with users by asking them questions and listening to their queries assists marketing people to assimilate a great quantity of information about consumer’s views and opinions on certain brand and what are their desires and expectations.
For instance, if a business sells chocolate, it can ask about different flavors customers may like or can create a Facebook quiz to determine which flavor of chocolate matches their personality. After the end of the game, Facebook users can have access to quiz results as well as company’s website to be tempted to buy the product.
In order to increase sales, companies have to concentrate their marketing efforts on the best and best promising prospects rather than wasting time on people who seem less likely to buy.
For instance, it is easy to waste 30 minutes chatting with a prospect or customer who has a question or a problem that could otherwise be easily addressed and solved in Frequently Asked Questions page.
On the other side, having online someone who has bought a product from you or may have intention to buy, may be a great opportunity to close the sale or obtain a testimonial or something else of value.
Most companies way too often believe that their prices are well set and need no further increase because clients and potential customers frequently balk at their current levels.
Or, they are investigating possibilities of becoming even more competitive, meaning lowering their prices.
However, nine out of ten times when there is any discomfort or complaint from buyers and prospects, it is not the price or total cost that bears the brunt of it.
The real issue is that price is frequently mentioned out of the context. This creates misunderstanding as far as value of the products or services are concerned.
Without know-how of the value that is provided by the firm, a rational price seems high and eventually acts as an obstruction to higher sales.
Many believe that creating and maintaining company’s presence on more than one social networking site is a frightening task. However, this is not that difficult anymore.
With time, many of the popular social networking sites have managed to build strategic alliances with other social sites in order to facilitate cross updating of information. Facebook updates can be set to automatically update Twitter profile, etc. This is where the proverb of “killing two birds with one stone” perfectly fits in.
The goal of business owners is to make money, right? However, to sell your products or services you need a way to get your message to your potential clients and prospects. After all customers can’t buy from you if they don’t know that you exist.
Small businesses must connect their social network measurements and analytics with their existing customer relationship management or marketing analytics strategies. This will lead to a unified view of their consumers and influences which will ensure an efficient reach and response to the right people. There are three main ways through which small businesses can optimize their resources through social media utilization.
Gauging Brand Health through Social Media Analytics – Healthy brand enables businesses to measure total brand awareness, influence of a particular marketing campaign, share of their voice, competitive edge and lastly customer satisfaction.
Recent studies have concluded that around 51 percent of Twitter users follow brands, products or companies on various social networking sites. Measuring the information and data, extracted from social media such as Facebook and Twitter is defined as social media analytics.
The metrics for social media that assist in determining the brand health include engagement, sentiment and activity data.
Tools for the metrics may vary from real time monitoring tools like PostRank to listening platforms which will help in forming company social media marketing strategy.
Blending Customer Data with Social Information to Enhance Target Precision – Small businesses are striving hard to improve their targeting accuracy. This will only be possible when there is substantial information about the customers which would enable them to direct relevant, specific and targeted messages at very specific social and demographic groups.
Social media platforms are channels from where consumers’ information such as status updates, connections, recommendations, friends and their interests can be extracted and data mining techniques can be performed.
A term named “social media profiling” has emerged, whereby new and small businesses collect social data from the web and create composite user profiles which is supplemented with traditional customer data link segmentation and targeting.
Understanding Customer Impact through Graph Analysis – Individuals are forming relationships with one another on social networking sites. They engage with content by voicing their views about the content (dislike, like, rating). So, with the help of mathematical terminology, the individual’s behavior can be expressed as a graph where nodes signify an individual and a tie represents a relationship or engagement. From this, a social graph can be made in order to discover social behavioral model, discover influencers and emerging trends. It may prove to be a difficult task to compute social graph. Businesses may use pre-packaged influencer marketing instruments such as Pursway or build their own.
If you have a website that sells products or services, you may find it pretty easy to use social networking sites to your advantage. When it comes to promoting your website or blog on social media and networking sites, you have a number of different options.
Your first option is to include a link to your blog or website in your community profile or profile page. This will allow other community members to check out your blog, and visit if they wish to do so.
The other way is to inform your online friends of your blog through private and direct messages. Once you join your social networking website and create or join a network of friends.
Many sites allow commercial advertising, which is considerably less expensive than advertising on conventional media.
As you can easily see, there are a number of different ways that you can promote your online business, no matter what type of website you have or what you use it for.
In conclusion, there are several kinds of customers that need to be catered.
On one side, small businesses and professionals will face those who have already purchased something from their firms, existing clients.
However, connection does not end with transfer of goods and money. These customers need to be kept in contact by asking them about their desires, offering additional help in use of a product, encouraging feedback through surveys, which elements of a product service is troubling them and give them clarification, etc. and etc. Talk in their language, provide them with incentives and the outcome will be a longer term relationship.
The other kind of customers are those that have been introduced to your business but need further research, more information, more details, need to see testimonials, recommendations.
Overall, in order to keep sales figures ticking, companies have to have tempting offers on their social networking sites and keep customers hanging around and give them ample and good reasons to come back.
Image Credits – Employees with megaphones – via BigStock