Social networking platforms build buzz, boost business and serve small businesses as low-cost/no-cost marketing tools. Small business owners need to understand how these tools strategically serve and support small business first so they best implement social media strategies to sell products and/or services.
Social Media, simply put, serves users and organizations 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 help share information in a less-formal way that builds the know, like and trust factors that influence decision making. Content is no longer just text. Small businesses 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 distinction serves and supports small business as it brings the people you want to attract directly to you and makes direct communication possible. Social Media makes communication a conversation so small business owners can share, receive feedback and connect on equal ground with their target markets.
When small businesses empower their target consumers, they feel powerful. When your target market feels powerful, it trusts you, buys from you, and stays with you. Social networking collaboration transforms consumers into “prosumers”. In an era of social media prosumers, it’s people (not companies) who make, shape, or break purchase patterns.
Small businesses can ignite collaboration for marketing by creating their own communities and/or joining communities. By doing so, they can listen and connect to their target customers and build a free forum to bring their market together. Collaboration = Marketing Acceleration. Social networking collaboration tools like review sites, video sharing sites, blogs, wikis and more allow users 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 power of mass collaboration serves and supports small business owners in a distinct way. Tapping/creating valuable collaborative options can bring people together to share ideas, exchange information, and help each other — and support relationship growth. Removing the “company/client” disconnect can break down elitism and boost marketing mind power.
The most important reason that social networking 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. Small business owners need to be where their target markets are — and these days, the masses are on Facebook, Ning, Twitter, Linkedin, Photobucket, YouTube and more because it has entertainment value.
Remember the Will It Blend? campaigns by Blendtec? They were a perfect example of social media marketing in brilliant action. Videos were relevant as they showed the product, were entertaining (they blended an iPhone!), and they were viral! People could easily share the fun with friends due to the ease of social media sharing widgets.
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.
Small business owners use social media’s entertainment factor to build their 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 Networking Helps Small Businesses Sell
Social Media Marketing helps most small businesses boost sales indirectly by increasing relationships. Understanding that social media marketing serves users 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 small businesses 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 organization. Social media doesn’t sell things — people sell things. Engaging in social media marketing starts the relationship-building process. Start small and snowball. Social media takes understanding, passion, effort, and commitment to make it work. Give your small business an authentic voice with social media and commit to providing value and you will be off to a smart start.