The question of how small businesses can grow using social media is one that I get all the time. Most small businesses understand that they need to be using social media, they understand which platforms exist (sometimes), but how they can actually measure a return on investment, or how to use it to target completely new customer groups is another thing entirely.
Measuring return on investment is one of the hardest things about social media. Because more often than not, a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter is not the first encounter a customer has with your brand. It might be the first, second, tenth or thirtieth experience that the customer has with your brand – but more often than not, its one that sticks. Google ads, print advertising, physical presence, word of mouth, all of these things come together to form the experiences consumers have with a brand. However, all of these other elements are fleeting – social media, while infinitely consumable, and moving at a rapid pace, is not forgettable.
By growing followers and likes on your pages, you are creating a system where you can touch base with these customers regularly, in their natural environment, influencing their product choices and their impression of your brand each time. This leads to positive engagement with the audience, a positive brand experience and can lead to product choice change – that is, they will choose yours over the competition. More often than not, social media forms a place where reviews of your business, products and service are left. This can either be direct (like a review on Facebook); or indirect (a snarky comment on an Instagram photo). But one thing is for sure – your potential customers will be influenced by these reviews, by this word of mouth.
All of this is all well and good. But HOW. HOW do you do it. How are you attracting these new customers? How are they finding you?
Im going to go off on a tangent here, but I promise Ill come back to my point.
I love coffee. I love it so much its just about the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night when I go to bed (thinking about the next days coffee – its sad I know).
What I love more than coffee, is trying new coffee places. Going to new cafes, new restaurants, places that have been recommended, or places I have yet to discover. And here I am coming back to my original point – the way that I find new places to have coffee, is on social media. By lurking hashtags #parramattacoffee #parramatta and #Parramattaeats for instance, I see everyone else who is contributing to these hashtags, where they are eating etc.
If Im looking at Bloggers I follow (heads up at MissPiggyEats and ChocolateSuze!), Im relying on their reputation (word of mouth) for finding cool spots to direct me to the kind of places I like to eat. I look through everyone who has been to a particular café, and I look at what they have said about the coffee, the atmosphere etc.
If I stumble upon brand pages, Im looking into the other pictures, tweets and posts that they have created, to let me know more about them – and not just about the food. I want to know about the atmosphere of the café, whether there is plenty of seating and most importantly what days they’re open and what time.
So imagine if all your potential new customers are doing that. You want to be using those hashtags right? So go to bloggers in your local area, and look at their instagram or twitter accounts and you will see what kind of hashtags you should be using. Start there. Remember that hashtags are quite unique to an area, and can be applied across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – so check all the different platforms.
Then move onto looking into the profiles of everyone who uses those same hashtags (and search your own business name too!) and follow all of those people. At the very least, they will have a look at your profile – in my experience, about half will follow back. Depending on the next point.
Make sure that the kind of content you are producing is interesting and engaging. Whether its savvy tweets, interesting facebook posts, great pictures on any of these platforms and on instagram. Its got to be interesting, its got to make people feel happy and feel good. If you’re a coffee shop in Parramatta, I want to see the kind of coffee you’re making, whether its espresso, drip, single origin or blends. Show me. Make it look pretty – instagram is great for that, and really easy to use. Then show me the food that I can eat, what your café looks like, show me a map of where you are and what your shop front looks like.
This will mean that the next time I want a coffee (most of the time) and happen to be wandering past your street, Im probably going to stop by. I’m probably going to contribute my own photo to Instagram. I might follow you. It might take a couple of visits before I follow you on social media – but then I am a captive audience member. Then, Im going to be exposed to your message everyday.
And at the end of the day, to be a consumer, I didn’t cost you anything.
Now imagine that there were 50,000 of me around Parramatta. Isn’t that 50,000 opportunities to create a positive brand experience? Isnt that 50,000 chances to grow my business, to meet new people?
At the end of the day, social media isn’t going to cover up a crappy cup of coffee, and isn’t going to create a business that has no grounding – no great staff, no great atmosphere, no great product. But if you have all of these things, Social Media is going to be a great way to amplify and broadcast your wonderful brand promise and your great cup of coffee to a group of people who might not know you’re there yet.
Do you feel a bit overwhelmed by all the different options available with using Social Media for your business? Get in touch, and we can have an obligation free chat about how I can help you and your business with your social media presence.