Social media marketing and the businesses that utilize it have become more sophisticated. More small businesses are beginning to understand how to best leverage online tools to build a community and recognize that engagement and interaction are the foundations of social marketing, but most don't know what's next.
What follows are five advanced strategies for small businesses that may already have small online communities and understand how to create an online presence, but don't know what to do next.
What Is An Advanced Strategy?
The definition of an advanced social strategy is a technique that goes beyond the normal social media presence. It introduces or reinforces a marketing message while pushing a user to another profile or business site. Before moving forward with an advanced strategy, it's important that your business understands social marketing, has experience engaging consumers, and that you possess a basic understanding of online marketing.
Strategy 1: Multimedia Usage
The term "A picture is worth a thousand words" has never been truer. Consumers are now using the web to look for product pictures and videos; they want more information and want to see what they're considering buying. The good news is that it's easy for a company to create and publish videos and pictures.
In addition to taking photos of products, you can also take pictures at office events as a way to highlight company culture. This not only helps convince others to work with you or to buy from you (consumers see that you are down to earth and one of them, instead of a stuffy company), it also helps your HR department recruit new employees. Who doesn't want to work for a company that celebrates birthdays and has a good time?
Videos are useful for explaining complex how-tos or concepts. Showing step by step directions can have a greater impact than even the most well written article. Businesses don't have to invest huge sums of money to create good videos, either. I highly recommend the relatively cheap Flip camcorder, which takes great videos and is easy for even a non-technical marketer to use.
Multimedia can break down the faceless business-to-consumer sales flow and make your company appear friendlier. Use videos and images to show that your business is fun, you care about your employees, and most importantly, that you care about your customers.
WorldMusicSupply.com, an online retailer of musical instruments and accessories, has used YouTube to build a strong online community. Their channel has built over 7,000 subscribers and has over 260,000 views.
Strategy 2: Integrate Offline and Online Advertising
Many small businesses do some sort of offline advertising, whether it be radio, print, or cable. Social marketing allows a business to extend their offline sales pitch.
Including your Facebook Page or blog URL in offline ads act as social proof, inviting potential consumers to see your community and increase trust in your business. Not only can integrating online and offline advertising help the conversion process, but it can also help build your community. Introducing potential consumers to your social profiles means they may join your community now and buy later.
Strategy 3: Message Adaptation
As businesses start to become more sophisticated with social media they are starting to leverage more online platforms. However, most deliver the same message over multiple platforms instead of tailoring communications for each individual site.
Social platforms each have an ecosystem of their own. What might be acceptable on Tumblr might be considered spam on Facebook. A specific style of writing might spread on Twitter but fail on FriendFeed. Understanding that each site is different and then customizing your message ensures they do well on each respective site.
Not only does customizing messages across sites help the message spread but it keeps users from receiving multiple identical communications. Be sure to maximize your potential by sending a user that follows the business on Twitter and Facebook two different messages, instead of the same thing.
Strategy 4: Local Social Networks, Beyond Yelp
For a small business, local search can be a big win. Being visible to consumers looking for a business in their area is extremely important. Make sure your site is included in local business directories in order to help ensure that consumers find you when they need you. Sometimes finding that many sites can be difficult, however.
First, make sure you check your competitors. Where are they listed? Check their inbound links to check for business directories you can add yourself to. Also, make sure your business has been added to Google Maps, using the Local Business Center.
Take the time to include all the information you can and update any old news. For many consumers, this will be their first interaction with the business.
Example: Bella Napoli in New York
Bella Napoli is a small pizzeria in New York that has done a great job of making sure they appear in as many local searches as possible.
Strategy 5: Contests and Discounts
Building a community is only the first part of social marketing. Using that community to drive sales, propagate marketing, or crowdsource operations is the true power of social media. One way to excite the community is to collectively do something to create a contest or offer an exclusive discount (i.e., the contest can create competition between users). Not only does a contest build buzz organically but if contestants need to, for example, publish an article that gets the most comments in order to win, the contest itself becomes viral.
A good social media contest should include some sort of sharing or virality as a requirement for winning.
Discounts are also a great way to connect with your community. By giving exclusive coupons to your social community, you're rewarding and reminding them that you are not only a brand to engage with, but also to buy from.
NetFirms.com decided to make it easier to register a domain by allowing people to do it via Twitter. Those who participated or spread the word by tweeting, were also entered into a prize drawing.
Creating a basic social media presence is easy enough, getting your community to actually do something is more difficult. Taking advantage of these strategies can help you build your community, make your marketing more effective, and incentivize buying.
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