Today’s small businesses have more tools at their disposal to encourage customer loyalty. While the traditional way of face-to-face contact remains important, the Internet has also made it possible to connect with customers from around the world, thereby expanding your customer base. That connection can be made directly through your website. To reach new customers social media participation can also help. Here’s how to make use of social media to keep your customers happy and returning with their business.
Establish Social Media Accounts
You have many options for connecting with your customers online. The top social media touch points include: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. There are others that may also work for you, including Instagramsmall, Foursquare, Reddit and Pinterest.
For now, stick with the larger social media sites. Set up accounts with each one and provide your business name, information about your company, a link to your website, photos and other relevant information. You may want to start out with one or two accounts at first, adding more as you get a feel for social media.
Assign a Point Person
If you are a sole proprietor without any employees, then you will most likely handle your social media initiative personally. If your budget allows, contracting that service to someone else may be a more sensible approach. After all, you need to manage your business.
When working with a contractor or employee dedicated to handling your social media initiative, you want someone who is already adept in that area. They should understand the ins and outs of a particular site and know how best to reach users. This individual should be tech savvy, able to handle and manage criticism, enjoy working online and be detailed oriented.
Get to Work on Content
The expression “content is king” holds true for websites and blogs. It is also a useful approach when taking on social media. For without fresh content your website can appear stale, even ineffectual.
Develop a sensible content development plan for your social media sites. When using Twitter, that may mean simply crafting four or five short messages per day and posting them at various times of the day. Your social media maven can also scan Twitter for topics of interest and share (retweet) those updates to your followers. This is a good way to develop your brand and expand your customer base. You can also use Twitter to answer customer questions, including addressing problems that may arise.
On Facebook, your social media approach may include a short blurb and a link to a new article on your website or blog. You can also use Facebook to post photos of a company event or new products along with a detailed caption. Your customers should be encouraged to “like” your site and Facebook can also be used as a place to announce special promotions and run contests.
Your LinkedIn approach to your customers will be different. Here, you will want to create a business page and weave in links to your articles. Typically, you will reach a professional audience, including your suppliers, competitors and your colleagues. LinkedIn certainly requires taking a different approach to social media, but it can be an important one nonetheless.
If you choose to go with Google+, you may find it to be similar to Facebook. It also incorporates elements of Twitter, by allowing you to use hashtags to highlight certain words or phrases. Lots of people use Google+ to post photographs. You may find it useful to announce a new product, discuss the market, reach new customers and touch base with your existing customers.
Integrate Social Media
When using social media, you will find that it’s easy to integrate it across a variety of platforms including on your website or blog. For properties that you own, such as a website or blog, you will want to offer links to your social media presence elsewhere. For instance, if you have a WordPress blog then you can include social media icons with each post by choosing the appropriate plug-in. The idea here is to encourage your readers to share your information elsewhere in a bid to elicit feedback and help you reach new customers.
You should also encourage conversations on your blog as well as on your social media sites. The goal here is to build an active fan base of customers who will talk about your product and share that information with others. In other words — to help virally promote your business.
Consider also encouraging people to review your products and share that information online with accounts such as Yelp and Amazon. Do not worry about negative feedback: you can handle those situations on a case-by-case basis.
Develop a Brand Identity
It takes much time, effort and even financial resources to build your brand identity online. Nevertheless, it is a useful and cost-effective way to reach new customers and manage the people who are already familiar with your products or services.
It is important that you maintain a unified and consistent voice online as well. Therefore, if more than one person is acting on behalf of of your company by means of social media, then you want to ensure cohesiveness and consistency across all social media sites.