Social Media – Can it Really Help Your Small Business?
I recently subscribed to Hello Fresh, one of those recipe box services. They send everything I need to make 3 meals of 2 servings each. I am not a very good cook, so I love things like this. Give me exactly what I need, tell me exactly what to do with it, and I’m golden. Anyway, I had a question about one of the recipes. I tweeted my question and tagged Hello Fresh in the tweet, and within minutes they replied. My question was answered, my dinner was saved, and now when I put pictures of my delicious creations on Instagram or Snapchat, I tell everyone to check them out.
Contrast that experience with my experience having an expensive handbag fall apart after two months of using it. The company ignored me when I asked about their return policy via social media and then customer service informed me that it was my fault (and, no, they couldn’t explain to me how carrying a handbag for two months voided the warranty). I was welcome to spend almost the same amount I did on the bag originally to have it repaired. I did not have the handbag returned. Instead I tweet ranted about the entire episode, and when this company comes up in conversation, I go into great detail about their terrible customer service.
I don’t do business with that handbag company any more. Which is a shame, because I’m a purse hoarder. You can keep your shoes, you can keep your clothing, keep your jewelry, just give me all the purses. Unless they’re from that company.
In today’s world, you must have a social media presence in order to grow your customer base or your following, and you must use that presence to engage with your customers. I’m not saying that company should have showered me with new purses (Not that I would have argued). But the fact that they ignored me on social media already soured me on their service, so when they eventually told me not very politely to bugger off with my ruined bag, I was not inclined to give them a second chance.
Social media can make or break your business. And because of the very nature of social media, customer service stories, both good and bad, spread around at lightning speed. The best companies know this and take advantage of it. Like this example from Jet Blue. A passenger on one of their flights tweeted that the TV on his seat was out and within minutes Jet Blue replied and offered the passenger a credit via DM for the non-working TV. There are several more examples in this blog post from Buffer.
And horror stories spread just as quickly. A customer comments via Facebook or Twitter that a meal they just ate wasn’t very good and the restaurant replies with vitriol and threats of banning. We all remember the hotel that told a bride and groom they would be fined $500 if there were any negative reviews left on Yelp. The bride and groom talked about it and posted about it and it was seen by tens of thousands of people. Most of whom probably decided not to stay at that hotel. Which means that even if you don’t give bad customer service directly on social media, But it’s a great example of why you should be watching for your name or business name to show up on social media and respond right away.
5 Benefits to Social Media
- Engaging with your customers. This is really the number one most important aspect of social media. Answer questions, ask questions and engage with the people who answer. Let your customers know what’s going on in your business. Having a sale? Closing early one day or planning to open on Sundays from now on? Let everyone know! If you’re not a brick & mortar store, this is even more important because social media is the only way for your customers to get to know you. Find out where your customers hang out and go there. Really engage with them.
- Showcasing your products. If you sell a physical product, take great pictures of them and post them on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest at minimum. Always include a link to your Etsy store or your website where you sell the products. (In Instagram this should be your profile link) If you don’t have physical products to sell, you still need to be posting. Link to blog posts, printables you’ve created, videos you’ve made, whatever you’ve created, post it everywhere.
- SEO. Having a solid social media presence will improve your SEO rankings, which will in turn improve how easily your customers and fans can find you. You want to get as close to the first page of Google search results as you can, and building your brand and staying consistent on social media will help you do that.
- Establish yourself. Social media can help you establish yourself as an expert in your chosen field. Answering questions, creating and sharing great content, and consistently helping people with no expectation of return are all ways to let others know that you know what you’re talking about. Especially in the beginning of your business, when you’re trying to establish yourself and get your name out there, social media is an invaluable (and free) way to make connections with your customers and others in your industry.
- It’s free. As I mentioned above, social media is free. And you can decide to pay for advertising on social media. Facebook ads, Twitter ads, promoted pins on Pinterest; they’re all great options, but when you’re just starting out, that’s too much. You just want to really dial in on your customers or clients and establish that connection, start that relationship. And that’s free. Do a search for your name or company name and respond to anyone who mentions you. Create a business page on Facebook and be active every single day. Engage. Ask questions, create surveys, answer questions, get involved. Especially if you’re a brick and mortar business, get involved in local events and anything going on around your town. Join free Facebook groups where your customers are likely to be and talk to them. Join Twitter chats, join Pinterest group boards. It’s all free and it will all help you grow your email list and grow your customer base.
You really do need social media. No matter how small your business, you can benefit from it. And, hey, if you’re busy, if you just don’t have time to mess with it, check out my social media packages and contact me. Let’s see what we can do together.
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