This is not the time to let customers or profíts slip through your fingers.
You need to make your business stronger, more successful, and ensure your customers are more loyal and responsive to your engagement with them.
Recently, Harry Dent, Jr. said that you should break from provincial geographic thinking and focus on demographics. You should go after customers, able and willing to spend on what you sell, wherever they are, not where you are.
As a result, many marketing, media, technology, and advertising experts use social media forums as a way to champion the use of social media. They suggest a company, especially a small business on main street with a modest marketing budget, become better known, extend their reach, and improve their company’s sales using social media.
Here is an example of a teaser message recently transmitted in an email campaign to small and medium sized businesses… the message says, “Social Media is the most explosively growing media of all-time and growing faster with each passing day with no slow-down in sight. It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. It took TV 13 years to reach 50 million users. Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months. And iPhone applications hit 1 BILLION in 9 months.”
Based on this message, it is easy for entrepreneurs to get seduced into thinking that by using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, big sales are just around the corner.
However, social media should work in conjunction with traditional marketing and selling techniques such as relationship marketing within “old” social networks, cold calling, vertical marketing, and other effective prospecting activities.
Small business owners should take the time to learn how to maximize their use of social media but they should not rely on it to make their sales. Business owners need to learn how to use social media to engage their prospects and customers and how to get their prospects and customers talking about something that is important to them and the small business. This type of engagement is necessary and will ultimately get prospects and customers to take the action the business owner wants them to take… leading to a sale.
In order to make the best business use of social media, the small business owner needs to prepare a simple strategy with several guidelines to follow in the use of social media. The strategy and guidelines need to pinpoint the specific message to be communicated so that all employees using social media for the business know what direction their messages should take and how they should focus their posts. For example, is the company’s focus to improve customer service? Is it to enhance awareness of their products or services? Or, is it to boost their brand recognition? Each of these things would have a different yet consistent message for the employees of the business to follow.
For example, one insuránce company uses Twitter and Facebook to let people know about all the philanthropic things they are doing for the community. All the posts are about events they are sponsoring and contributions they’re making. Employees know that they should post information about personal things they’re doing for the community, such as volunteering at the local animal shelter or helping out with Habitat for Humanity. With a clear guideline that the social media effort is to elevate philanthropic awareness it is easy for employees to know the kinds of things they should be doing on social media sites. They have a clear focus and a unified purpose.
Another company in the retail industry uses social media to improve customer service. All their posts highlight things they are doing internally to improve the customer experience, what they are doing online to make shopping easier and how they are handling phone inquires to deliver a memorable shopping experience. They also regularly ask customers how they would like the company to improve customer service. With that as the key message, all of the company’s employees are focused on problem solving and on making the customers happy.
Therefore, a good social media strategy, with employee guidelines, is far more than a list of good and bad words or topics. Instead, the strategy with guidelines needs to focus on the core message the small business wants to portray along with the best ways to spread that core message.
The guidelines should cover the following topics.
The business employees should use their posts to build a reputation of trust among clients, media, and the public. When they are reaching out to others on social media sites, they should take every opportunity to build a reputation of trust and to establish themselves as a credible and transparent representative of the company.
When participating in any online community, the small business employees should disclose their identities and affiliations with the organization, clients, and their professional and / or personal interest.
When creating posts and content, the business employees should be direct, informative, and brief.
Giving Due Credít
If the business employees post copyrighted materials, they should identify the original sources.
The small business employees should always evaluate each posting’s accuracy and truthfulness. Before posting any online material, they need to ensure that the material is accurate, truthful, and without factual error. This includes doing a spell and grammar check on everything.
Make sure the business employees know that they are responsible for what they post. Negative or questionable posts should not be tolerated.
When posting comments, the business employees should refrain from writing about controversial or potentially inflammatory subjects, including politics, sex, religion, or any other non-business related subjects. The tone of their comments should be respectful and informative and not ever condescending or “loud.”
The business employees shouldn’t ever disclose proprietary or confidential information. This includes product releases, service updates, and employee information not made public yet.
Obeying the Rules
All business employees should follow local, state, or federal laws and regulations. Ultimately, their online activities will be a reflection on the company.
Today’s social media tools are great for business building, provided that the small business owner and their employees know how to use them for the company’s ultimate benefit. Therefore, the small business owner needs to determine why their company is using social media sites and then let that purpose be known throughout the entire company. Additionally, they need to implement clear social media guidelines that small company employees can follow in order to further their company’s mission.
Ultimately, when small businesses know how they are supposed to use today’s social media tools, they can do so with focus and purpose, leading the small company confidently into the communication age.
If you would like any assistance in your Social Media strategy and/or execution, please feel free to contact iQuarius Media.
By Michael W Farrell (c) 2011