Social media can be a daunting task for small businesses because of its unpredictability. As a nontraditional marketing strategy, social media puts power in the hands of the consumer. Businesses create content but consumers interact in this push/pull method. Ideally, small businesses should be using social media to gain customer trust and loyalty, not to advertise sales.
An online community where your business’ regulars chat with new customers creates synergy and a natural flow to get the word out, without blatant in-your-face solicitation. The most important way to get desired results with social media is to focus on relationships and not pitches. People are not buying a product or service – they are first agreeing to a relationship with you. Engage customers in a conversation about a recent event at your business or ask them what they think of a new change to your company.
Reid Travis, social media manager of Mexican restaurant chain Panchero’s says, “I feel like companies that practice one-way conversation (the talking only kind) are pretty much missing the entire point of social media. The best advice I can give is to listen more than you talk and don’t be scared to let go of the reigns. You’re definitely not going to be able to control the entire message out there; be okay with that,” (Gist).
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are easy ways for small businesses to gauge interest and get the word out about events and new products – just make sure it’s a two-way conversation. Engage members of the community and invite them to organized events. By going the extra mile, small businesses can use social media marketing to create a culture that customers will return to.