Small businesses live and die by word of mouth.
This has been the way since the birth of business itself (I think around the caveman times!) While larger corporations have expansive advertising budgets and expensive marketing consultants to help them get their business name out there, small business relies on the reputation of their product and their services.
In the olden days, before the internet, word of mouth was passed quite literally by word of mouth. This meant that a customer of a small business would tell their family members, or neighbours, or random people in the street, all about their experience of that business. If they loved it, they told people. If they hated it, you bet they told people.
And then those people tried the business (if the word was good), or just passed on the information to more people (if the word was bad). And then this pattern continued while the small business either flourished, or just faded away.
Flash forward to today and small business still needs word of mouth to survive, but it is passed from customer to potential customer a lot easier, and a great deal quicker, through social media.
What are the benefits of social media?
Social media, such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, admittedly can be daunting to newbies (or anybody born before 1975). But if you embrace the fear and start to play around with it, as a small business owner you can really grow your reach. And you might even have fun while you are doing it.
You don’t need to study digital marketing to become social media savvy. There are plenty of free short courses and videos online that will get you started. And also helping you to get started is the fact that basic social media marketing can be completely free.
There is quite a lot you can do to create your own page and posts, and even establish a small following for free. However, the reality is that it is getting harder and harder to reach people organically, particularly on platforms like Facebook. You can elect to invest a little more and buy advertising campaigns or ‘boost’ particular posts, for your business. If you do choose to, this kind of advertising is far more targeted and far less expensive than traditional advertising such as print media, radio or (gulp) television.
Through social media you can reach your target audience anywhere in the world, as long as your audience uses social media. And in Australia social media users make up nearly 80% of the population.
The goal of social media for businesses is of course to reach potential customers. You do this by getting people to follow your page and like your posts. Existing customers and visitors to your venue can let their friends know what they think. You can showcase your business with pictures and video, and write posts and blogs telling the story of your endeavour.
Here are some tips and tricks to get you started
#1 Regular Posting
The most important thing you can do with social media, especially if you are trying to do it on the cheap, is post regularly. The more often you post, the more often you will appear in people’s social media feed. And this means at least once a day, but preferably around 3 times or more.
Because social media is 24-7 and worldwide, you need to be regular to continue to be seen and heard. Like everything else in life, there are great apps and websites to help you schedule this, so don’t let those numbers terrify you too much.
You not only should post often, but post well. This means unique and interesting content that connects with your potential customers. Follow social media pages of competitors and individuals that you find inspiring to get some hints for how this is done. You are looking for a good blend of images, short and long posts, and snappy, interesting things that will grab people’s attention.
#2 Using awesome (but original) pictures and videos
Your pictures should ideally be original, as once you get into the murky waters of using other images already posted online you are in dangerous territory. If you ‘borrow’ other people’s images without crediting the owner or creator then you are breaching copyright law. You can subscribe to large website banks of photos to help you along, or repost other photos with credit given where its due, but the best way is to just use your own.
It is actually really easy to develop your skills in taking your own great pics; think colour, detail, clarity, and use of light. All smart phones have a half-decent camera, so you can practice until the cows come home, and until you get good. When using photos of people, the eyes are what will jump out first at the viewer, so as a good hint it helps to emphasise those peepers.
More and more followers are wanting short videos about your business, and again social media makes posting these very easy. The general rule of thumb is don’t be afraid of trying this out, and practice until you are comfortable and confident. These are a great way to connect with your audience because it reminds them that there is an actual human being behind the brand.
#3 Stay human, and present your own unique story
While there are equations and algorithms that will affect how often your posts are seen, this type of advertising is by no means computer-run. Social media is still all about people, so you need to focus on connecting with, attracting, educating or persuading your audience.
Make your online story unique. Introduce people to yourself and your staff, your family and your origins. Let them get to know you as though they have physically walked into your business and been graced by your awesome service. Show your personality, your voice and your business’ mission in your posts.
#4 Handling your reviewers
One important aspect of social media is the reviews. The ability for customers to review your product and services is a necessary part of a fair and free economy, and can be great for business. It can also be terrible for business if handled badly.
It is helpful to have good reviews, particularly from people with many followers, such as social media bloggers and influencers. It is possible to manufacture and buy fake followers and fake reviews, but these can be double-edged swords.
Fake reviews can be obvious to anyone familiar with social media. Fake followers may make your numbers look good on the surface, but doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone is seeing you, and certainly doesn’t mean anyone is buying from you.
Through social media platforms It is easy for someone to give you a very harsh, very public negative review. It’s best if you recognise early on that this may happen, and connect with the customer directly to smooth things over and stop this from happening.
The rules of good old-fashioned service still apply; apologise if you are at fault, offer refunds or exchanges wherever possible, and always treat people with respect. Offer explanations (not excuses) and fix things where problems need to be addressed. You can do all this on social media too, so the great service you provide can be seen by all.
Some customers will be still very unreasonable, and cannot be reasoned with no matter what, and these are often the most vocal ones online. However reasonable customers tend to recognise when negative reviews are valid, or more just emotionally charged, and ridiculous bad reviews should not sway everyone’s opinion.
This is just scratching the social media surface…
We could quite easily talk about this all day, and there is a lot more to know. But as Mark Twain may have said (according to social media) ‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started.’ Just jump in. Embrace the social media juggernaut, because as a small business owner, you probably really can’t avoid it. Play around with it, practice it, and you might surprise yourself with the digital voice you create for your endeavour.
Of course, this is just enough to get you started. If you find your reach is plateauing, or you want to make real financial inroads with your business talk to us today about how we can help you. Or if you are still flummoxed, or terrified, by social media, or flat-out busy with, I don’t know, running your business, then you might want to talk to us as well.
Or follow us on social media, that works too.