If you have been one of the social networking detractors, recent studies are proving you wrong. According to a 2010 Unisfair marketing survey, social media is now the top way to generate leads. Because lead generation was identified as the top priority among business owners sampled in the survey, above even customer retention and brand awareness, this research underscores the importance of social media in the new small business scene.
We all know that social media is an important part of building a brand. However, many small business owners are leery of social media’s ability to actually generate leads. Here are a few ways you can begin to use social networking as a real, measurable business tool and get the leads you need for small business success.
Just making accounts at a few social media sites is not enough. You need to promote these sites and get a decent number of followers before they can begin to have any impact on your actual business. Place links to your social networks at all of your business websites and just about everywhere that you can. Look up competitors, colleagues, and former friends and add them to your network.
Funnel customers to your website.
Your social updates should not be an end unto themselves. Instead, offer links to more information—usually to be found at your own sites. This will place customers in your virtual storefront on a regular basis and make them comfortable with and familiar with your website. Try different approaches and see what works best for your own company.
Use social media to monitor your brand.
There are few places where people are more honest than the internet. Here you will see complaints, praise, and more nitpicking than in any other type of media, in large part because of the relative anonymity. However, this means that you can see at a second’s glance whether you are succeeding in branding and marketing your company. Use Google Alerts, TweetDeck, and similar monitoring services to identify conversations about your brand. You can then move on to the next step.
The second step to identifying important information about your brand is reacting appropriately to it. When someone complains about a competitor, direct them to a similar product or service that you offer. If they say they are looking for a certain feature, take this into consideration in your planning. If they complain about your company, make it good for them. This will bring more customers to your website than any other strategy.
Be a business owner at all times.
Would you give a customer in your physical locations intimate information about last night’s date? Of course not. It shouldn’t be on your business’s social network either. Avoid mixing business and pleasure. Be a good business owner, even on the internet, and uses your customer service tools and voice at all times. Social networking may be a new type of media, but the business-client relationship should remain the same.