Using social media for your small business

Page last updated: Wednesday, 14 December 2016 - 3:22pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

The social media revolution started in 2004 with the introduction of social platforms to share thoughts, ideas and images.

Social media has become one of the most widely used communication devices for both personal and business use and has led to fundamental changes in the way we communicate.

What is social media and how does it work?

Social media can be defined as ‘social software or technology used to promote conversation and interaction between people online’. In other words, it’s using internet based platforms to allow a business owner to spread the word about who they are and what they do.

It also allows customers and potential customers to talk to each other about you, your product or services, review their experience and possibly refer others to you.

When a person signs up to a particular social media platform they will establish an online network called ‘friends’. These friends can then send each other information, photos or videos which they can comment on, like or share with others.

As of February 2014 in Australia:

  • 13 million Facebook users
  • 12.5 million streams viewed on YouTube
  • 2.5 million active Twitter accounts
  • 3.7 million LinkedIn users
  • 4.8 million Tumbler users
  • 1.6 million active Instagram users
  • over 1 billion Google searches for products and services every month.

Your customers could be talking about you whether you realise it or not. Can you afford not to join the conversation?

Social media for business

With many of us are now using social media to interact online, research products and services, share experiences and offer reviews, it has become an important platform for businesses to engage with customers, prospects and employees.

For customer interactions, businesses can use social media to engage with existing and potential customers, reinforce their message (brand), guide or influence opinion in the market place, provide product or service information, testimonials, specific offers and even direct customer service.

Benefits and opportunities

Every day millions of people log on to social media from either their computer or smartphone.

Social media sites allow users to post articles, website links, photos, videos and reviews to share and interact with each other.

This builds an online based community in which to engage on a more personal level as it is built on trust and common interest.

Successful social media marketing campaigns can have a ripple effect and can be one of the cheapest, fastest and most effective ways to spread the word when compared to traditional marketing avenues.

Here are just some of the benefits of using social media to market a business:

  • Minimal set-up costs. Most platforms are free to sign-up and there is a multitude of training available online in its effective use. The only cost may be the time you invest in it.
  • Large volumes of traffic that can potentially find out about your business.
  • As social media sites and online communities are essentially built on trust, it is a fantastic way to build credibility in your brand. It allows for clear messages to be sent right to your customers, making it more visible.
  • Great way to build up followers of your business. This is effectively like building-up a business client database, one of the key parameters when valuing a business.
  • Your followers can become your greatest advertising asset. When people start to spread the word about who you are or what you do, there is no better form of advertising. When client satisfaction leads to referrals, it will result in greater lead generation and a potentially higher conversion rate.
  • Real time feedback. Positive feedback may be able to be used as a testimonial. Negative feedback is also vitally important as it gives you the opportunity to deal with an issue in a timely and professional manner, plus this demonstrates that you care enough about your customers to listen to their complaint and deal with the issue. This is an excellent way to build credibility with your audience. Feedback also lets you know more about your customers, allowing you to fine tune your marketing efforts to have greater impact.

Which social media platform is right for me?

There are hundreds of different social media platforms available. The best way to decide which ones are right for your business is to create a social media strategy. This will not only assist in selecting which platform(s) you use, but will also assist in creating a strategy about what type of things to post and how often.

Social media is all about connecting with your audience on an authentic level. To do that, you have to intimately understand your current and potential customers.

Here is a list to help determine just who your customers are:

  • Who would use your product or service?
  • How old are they? Gender?
  • Married, single or divorced? Do they have children?
  • Where do they live?
  • What is their level of education? What type of work do they do?
  • What are their interests?

Research on just who your potential customers are, is a key part of developing your strategy. It gives you an insight into what your customers want, what their values are and how they gather information.

Next, define your message. Based on your target audience, what are the key messages that you want to communicate to your audience on a regular basis.

Now consider which social media platforms they prefer. Remember, social media is about your customers, not about you, so choose what your audience likes, not what you want to use.

Here is a list describing some of the key social media platforms that you may choose to use:

  • Facebook – A social networking site for individuals and businesses. It is used to stay in touch with friends and keep up to date on events, topics, products and services.
  • Twitter – Best described as a micro blogging site. Users send ‘tweets’ of up to 140 characters. It is perfect for making announcements as people who use it follow topics and people/businesses which deal in issues they care about.
  • Blogs – They allow you to post articles, mostly self-written about topics and issues relevant to your business. They are also suited to gradually building your credibility in your chosen field. They are an easy way to drive traffic to your website, generate a following for your business and are also excellent for search engine optimisation (SEO).
  • YouTube – A video sharing website where users can upload, share and view videos. It can be a powerful business tool to visually describe your product or service.
  • LinkedIn – A social networking site particularly for professionals and business owners. The purpose of LinkedIn is to allow users to maintain a list of contact details of people they know and trust in business.