1. Benefits of Small Business Social Media Marketing

    Beyond the obvious benefits of protecting your business’s reputation online, there are additional perks and opportunities that small businesses can use to their advantage.

    As I mentioned in my post Businesses Can’t Avoid Social Networks Forever, there are several added benefits to participating in the social networking / media websites. Sure, some businesses will continue no further than to monitor their rep online, but others will find it as a powerful new opportunity to grow their business.

    Brand Recognition & Equity

    Depending on your product or service, many businesses can use social networking sites to help grow brand equity.

    Some companies’ brands are their most valuable asset. If your marketing and sales efforts rely heavily on brand recognition, then social networking gives you the perfect opportunity for creating that brand recognition.

    Twitter and Facebook are particularly useful in this area. You can participate in the Twitter community, entice your customers to follow you, catch a more unique, personal glimpse into your business and therefore establish a very close connection with your customers.

    On Facebook, you can establish a branded page, all about your business or organization that people can become “fans” of. This is shown in their user stream and all of their friends are then introduced to your brand.

    By simply existing in these social networking arenas you will collect a certain number of follows, but by really participating and interacting with your community you can greatly increase the amount of impressions for your brand.

    Case Study: Threadless

    ThreadlessLogo

    Threadless is a t-shirt / art community that has grown over the last few years because of their savvy use of Facebook, and other social networking tools to interact and participate with their community.

    If you go to the Threadless Facebook page you’ll see a branded community with thousands of fans and an amazing level of participation by both the company and its customers.

    The company has a dedicated Facebook page, 56,000+ fans, and a very involved staff.

    From live video based giveaways of their product on Thursdays, product announcements, contests and live-updates from any event or launch, they garner support and interaction with their customers.

    More Ears and Eyes on You

    Another advantage to social networking sites is the ability to create some useful relative inbound links to your own website.

    First, let me be clear; I am not advocating a link-spamming type of setup. I am talking about relevant links and sharing of links that point back to your website.

    Instead of viewing social networking sites as an SEO opportunity — which it certainly is — you can view your social networks as a way to get more people looking at your products.

    When you launch a new product line, you can do a complete write-up of it on your blog. Publish the blog, share links to the article into your Facebook and Twitter communities, and you’ll see the amount of inbound traffic go!

    If you are writing helpful, real articles on your blog, people landing on the page will be able to review your information, and click in to your site and view more information about your product or service.

    In addition, this approach helps with your Google juice. Since Google indexes blogs so quickly, the content in the article will end up in their index very quickly.

    Case Study: BLUETUX – Web Design & Development

    BLUETUX LogoAt my own company, BLUETUX, we’ve been using this technique to great success. Instead of trying to do full press releases, or custom announcements for Twitter and Facebook, we simply create a new press release or blog article, share it through the various mediums, and are then contacted directly by interested customers.

    A large percentage of the traffic to BLUETUX is generated by our Twitter account and Facebook Page and, according to our statistics, it occurs on days when new releases are sent out.

    Essentially, we’re using Facebook and Twitter as the platform for pushing out new information about our services.

    We grow our social networking community by simply asking our customers to follow us online, promise them that we aren’t looking to spam them, and then provide them with occasional updates and as always a more personal level of interaction with our customers.

    Before 2008 we rarely were following up with our current customers, educating them on new technology, new services or new opportunities for them to grow their businesses online. We only heard from most of them when they had a problem, or when they felt that they needed a new website. This was hardly an effective or wise approach for us to take, and we’ve been working hard on establishing a personal connection through social networking for any client that is willing.

    Since we began this new approach, we’ve seen a 30% monthly increase in traffic and a very large increase in customer communication and repeat business / upgrades with our customers.

    How Does It Fit Your Business

    Many times, people see success stories like Threadless or BLUETUX and they say, “Well, that’s nice but I don’t sell X, I sell Y — how would this help me?”

    The first step is to establish yourself in the community. Create your online presence, talk to your customers, ask them to become fans on Facebook, and ask them to follow you on Twitter.

    If you concentrate on providing real value via these mediums, you will find that your customers will begin to interact more and more.

    Giveaways, specials, product announcements, all of these old methods of marketing can be employed using social networks as the platform. You will find that the more personal, helpful, and interactive you are, the more people will become interested in your business.

    Once you’ve established a small following, you can find creative, simple ways to further market yourself to a larger audience.

    There is nothing more exciting than to have a happy customer base that is also acting as your best advertiser.

    They shout your praises, refer work, and actively promote you to their friends.