Many Jamaican small business owners are still feeling their way into social media, particularly when it comes to using these tools to grow their businesses. While social media can provide additional channels to network and help grow your business, many haven’t the inclination, manpower or the time required take advantage of them.
Some entrepreneurs and small business owners I have talked to had no idea what these social networks are, and how they can serve and support their business. Some, while in the minority, are very internet savvy, yet still have barely bothered to be a part of the interactive social media networks of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.
How Social Media Serves and Supports Small Business
Social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.) build buzz, boost business and serve small businesses as low-cost/no-cost public relations, promotional, and marketing tools. As small business owners, the first thing you need to do is to understand how these tools strategically serve and support your business so you best implement social media strategies to sell your products and/or services.
Social Media, simply put, serves you in marketing in three ways:
Marketing is all about building relationships – relationships start with communication. New web tools like blogging, micro-blogging (Twitter), social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning), podcasting (BlogTalkRadio), video distribution (YouTube), event coordination tools (Meetup), wikis (Wikipedia) photo sharing (Flickr, Photobucket), and product review sites (epinions.com) allow small businesses to communicate, educate and share information directly with their current and prospective customers.
Content in the form of blog posts, audio, video, comparison/review sites, tweets and social network messages will help you share information in a less-formal way that builds the know, like and trust factors that influence decision making. Remember, content is no longer just text! As small business owners you can use audio or visual content for a “show me” and “tell me” to make communications a pack more interactive punch.
Social media’s direct communication can also support you and your business as it brings your prospective clients to you and makes direct communication possible. Social Media also makes communication a conversation so you, the entrepreneur, can share, receive feedback and connect on equal ground with your target markets.
As a small business owner, when you empower your target consumers, they naturally feel energised. So, when your target market feels energised, it trusts you, buys from you, and stays with you… customer service at its best! Therefore, you can use social media collaboration to transform your consumers into what is called: “prosumers”. In this era of social media prosumers, it’s people (not companies) who make, shape, or break purchase patterns.
As small business owners, you can ignite collaboration for marketing by creating your own communities and/or joining communities. By doing so, you are uniquely position to listen and connect to their target customers and build a free forum to bring your market together. The formula: Collaboration = Marketing Acceleration.
Social media collaboration tools like review sites, video sharing sites, blogs, wikis and more allow your target audience to self-serve, collaborate, and potentially serve as an endorser for your small business. Social media works as a marketing tool because people are more likely to trust peers rather than companies.
The most important reason that social media works as a marketing tool is simple – because it’s fun. People want to go where they feel they belong, have a voice, are listened to, and enjoy themselves. As small business owners, you need to be where your target markets are – and these days, the masses are on Facebook, Ning, Twitter, Linkedin, Photobucket, YouTube and more because it has entertainment value.
You can’t put a dollar amount on free promotion. The way social media stores data as an “Interactive Rolodex” also has an entertainment factor. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are becoming the “new databases” because they are fast, easy, and fun. People are more likely to update their Facebook and LinkedIn information than a sterile address book because it is fun.
As small business owners, I encourage you to start using social media’s entertainment factor to build your online database of contacts and connections, be visible to prospective customers, and get the word out in creative ways like YouTube videos, blog posts, images, podcasts to make people smile and spread the word.
How Social Media Helps Small Businesses Sell
There is no doubt in my mind that Social Media Marketing helps most small businesses boost sales indirectly by increasing relationships. 90 per cent of my businesses come from Facebook and LinkedIn. Therefore, in understanding that social media marketing can serve you for communication, collaboration, and entertainment, is the first step to considering how to strategically implement the multitude of social media marketing tools and choose the ones that work best for your unique organization.
The key thing that you, entrepreneurs, professionals, and small business owners, need to remember when using social media to help sell is that efforts must have value. There has to be value to your content, community, and execution to get people to engage with you or your business. Social media doesn’t sell things — people sell things. Engaging in social media marketing starts the relationship-building process. Start small and mushroom. Social media takes understanding, passion, effort, and commitment to make it work. In giving your small business an authentic voice with social media and commit to providing value, you will certainly be making a smart move.
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Editor’s Note: Merry Christmas to you all! A big shoutout to all entrepreneurs. Wishing you a safe and holy season. Looking forward to sharing a prosperous 2k10 with you.
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