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The Importance to Small Business of Engaging their Customers on Social Media Sites

Marketing a small business so that it competes effectively in the marketplace now relies heavily on having a good online presence. With a recent Nielsen survey1 indicating that 85% of the world’s internet users have shopped online and that internet shopping has increased by 40% in just the last two years, it is vital to the success of every business now to be available to their customers via the internet. One of the most effective ways of using the web to market a small, local business, even on a shoestring budget, is to use the popular Web 2.0 social network sites like Facebook or Twitter.

The Necessity of Having an Online Presence for Small Business
With 800 million members2 Facebook is one of the most visited sites on the internet and has more users than most nations have citizens. While other social network sites don’t have quite as many numbers, connecting with friends and family online has become an everyday part of modern life and social networks and blogs have become the fourth most popular online activity3. Three quarters of consumers get a recommendation from friends or family before making a purchase and 81% of people have said that they have gotten that advice on a social networking site4. When the statistics are weighed the value of engaging potential customers via social network sites is immediately obvious.

The Advantage to Small Business of Using Social Networks
The advantage of connecting with customers on social network sites is that on the one hand you are presenting your product in the place where they are most likely to seek advice on their purchases, while on the other hand if they are pleased with the product and your service they are just as likely to recommend your business to their friends on the same site. Another advantage of using social networking to engage your customers is that it enables you to build genuine one on one relationship with a broad section of the market all in one place where visitors are more relaxed and open to online dialogue. Social network advertising is also very cheap, able to be targeted very precisely, and has a potential reach that is bigger than television and the print media combined.

Of course there is an etiquette here in using social networks to market your business and just going on Facebook and posting linked ads to your company website or buying anonymous followers or ‘likes’ isn’t going to produce very worthwhile results. In order to use social networks effectively, it is important to contribute to the sites by making interesting posts, ‘liking’ other users’ status updates and making helpful comments that are on topic and then using these methods to subtly introduce your business and its services when it is appropriate. Doing this will develop an organic following for your business on the site which will deliver consistently high rankings for your contributions and people will begin to look for your posts because they deliver real value.

Reasons Why Small Businesses Often Have Less than 100 Likes
The other important factor in building a working presence on the social networks is the way that advertising is used to direct traffic to your business page. The reason why most small businesses have less than 100 likes is that, apart from not engaging with their customers regularly enough, they haven’t employed the advertising on these sites to its greatest advantage. Targeting ads to your specific niche market demographics is a powerful promotional tool, but timing your posts on these sites so that they reach that targeted audience before they get buried in the site archives is just as important.

Driving Traffic to Your Social Network Page
The most practical strategy for driving traffic to your social network page and then onto your corporate website is to genuinely engage with your customers on the sites and build real relationships with them. Most people view their online relationships as being as genuine as any of their other friendships and are also more likely to make a purchase from someone that they already know. Effective use of social network marketing tools like Facebook ads can attract a lot of people to ‘like’ your business page but it is the relationship that you build with them by engaging them online afterwards that will convert those online friends into real world customers.

References:
1.http://www.marketingcharts.com/direct/875mm-consumers-have-shopped-online-up-40-in-two-years-3225/nielsen-global-ecommerce-most-popular-online-purchases-copyjpg/

2. http://www.internetworldstats.com/facebook.htm

3. http://www.bazaarvoice.com/resources/stats

4. http://www.powerreviews.com/resources/social-commerce-stats

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