So, you’ve been told you need to pay attention to social media. Great. So, which ones do you pay attention to? How do you make wise social media business choices? Answer: Choose the social outlets or online communities that connect your business with your customers.
Small and medium businesses in all industries need to worry about social media. Ignoring commentary about your business won’t make it go away. People love to talk. They’ll talk about businesses that make them happy or satisfied, but they also talk about businesses that don’t satisfy and many times with far more enthusiasm. It’s just good business to pay attention to online groups, communities, and major review sites while scanning for your company name, or product brands and services you may sell. Feed it now and then, and address issues in a fair and timely manner, and your business benefits. But it all starts with making wise social media business choices.
Why deal with social media?
Most businesses have customers that talk. It’s useful and easy for customer prospects to ask opinions of those seen as experienced as part of the research before buying. It could be a retail consumer product or service, or it could be a wholesale industrial product or service. With any business or industry, there is a “community” of potential buyers or recommenders online somewhere. One task is to find them. It may be a bunch of knitting enthusiasts chatting about the most helpful yarn shops in a given area. It could be heavy equipment owners group members asking about local service companies, or any of a million other possibilities. The point is, there’s at least one or more groups, or collections of people, with a common social connection, need, or experience and they are not bashful about sharing. This is where your company comes in.
You can’t take part if you’re not visible
If you’ve been paying attention, your company is in the conversation. If you haven’t been paying attention, the best-case result is that your company, product, or service is invisible to the conversation. Worst case result? Somebody’s bashing your company, brand, or product online, perhaps even in a case of mistaken identity. And, the public relations beat down company is taking is hurting your sales without your knowledge. You need to get in the game to be a part of the conversation. Your company may gain advantage and become considered an expert assuming a leadership role by the public if you play your cards right.
Does every social media site matter to every business?
In short, no. Wise social media business choices must prevail, as there’s just too many social outlets to focus on all of them. Social media strategy is important to every business, regardless of size or industry. Is anyone out there hanging on every tweet by energy industry giant Shell? Well, perhaps, some financial analysts, or distributors about to attend a trade briefing. Maybe employees might follow Shell Tweets too. So, yes, there are enough interested parties to warrant Shell keeping a Twitter account, perhaps several, considering their size and business diversity.
A small retailer with a little mailing list of 1000 regular customers may benefit a lot by tweeting about newly arrived inventory, or maybe a special celebrity instructor with limited space is in town. The Twitter format is well-suited to headlines that may interest followers in this case. But it only works if the message is relevant and worthy.
Facebook and YouTube are two visual media that are a fit for photo and video oriented engagement which may fit an automobile, motorcycle, heavy truck, or helicopter dealership. Musical Artists obviously can leverage these services for maximum engagement and benefit. YouTube and Facebook aren’t just for new grandbaby photos and videos. So which social communities matter? How do you choose which social media outlets to feed and oversee with your precious time?
Focus on the best connections to new and returning customers to decide on social media participation.
Once started, it pays to be consistent with your social posting and updates. However, before carrying out your social media tactics you must decide where to focus. Its not always obvious which social communities matter to a given business. This is where a specialist may be of some help to you. It takes some research to figure out where your customer prospects are likely to be hanging out. Sometimes the community you’re looking for isn’t so obvious. Choose poorly and you will spend notable time working social media updates with little return for your time investment. For many social media outlets, it comes down to fit.
I am astonished how often I am sitting in a restaurant or small sandwich shop surrounded by “Like us on Facebook” signs on all the tables and doors. And yet there is no mention of Yelp or other restaurant review sites or apps anywhere. Most people don’t look to Facebook to check out restaurant prospects. This is especially true for visitors new to the area.
Think about your customers, heck, ask them about how they found you or how they might advise others. While it’s conceivable that a random Facebook group may discuss the best New York style pizza joint in Houston, it’s much more important to have a strong presence on locally popular food review sites. The answers may surprise you. It may not be what is most comfortable or easy for you, but it’s not about you. Put your time into paying attention to the sites (or apps) that correlate most directly with your customers somehow. If you cannot explain how Twitter or LinkedIn fit between your business and your customers, move along to another. You cannot master all social media sites, nor do they all offer enough to warrant your time, so pick wisely and focus on 1-3 good ones then go after them with vigor.
Stay on top of it, watch and learn
Public opinion changes with lightning speed and efficiency, but never without a reason. Ask yourself why? When reviews and opinion about your business are positive, ask yourself why? When you get a low review score, why? Anonymous reviews are so important to your business and they give you priceless insight into your patrons. They are collectively always right! Yes, you will get an occasional crazy person, or someone picky to the point of ridiculousness, but those should be statistical anomalies, and you’ll find that your customers will come to your defense. It’s a number’s game! A 5-star average with just 4 reviews, carries nowhere near the weight of a 4.5-star average with 900 reviews. It’s not even close. You need and want as many as possible. That’s an example of wise social media business choices.
Once you know your service is up to snuff, and you are certain your product quality and pricing are on par with your target market, ask your customers to share their high opinions! Pay close attention to the naysayers, and don’t get too defensive. People don’t trust a business with zero bad reviews. They think the box has been stuffed…even the review sites like Yelp suspect foul play when there are no less-than-perfect scores now and then, and they will investigate. It’s true.
To sum up wise social media business choices:
- Yes, all businesses can benefit from social media presence and engagement.
- It’s not always easy to decide which social outlets or communities are best, do research or hire a pro
- You’re looking for outlets that connect your business with your customer, it’s not always obvious
- Don’t overlook membership sites focused on trades, hobbies, or other related interests
- Take part, contribute, and pay attention.
- Don’t get too defensive about criticism, especially in well-written reviews.
- Be prepared to shift with your audience…remember MySpace?