News flash… Social Media is here to stay. Think about the course of your day, how many times are you on Facebook, or how many times during the course of a news broadcast is Twitter mentioned or how many times do you look up a review of something before you buy on Yelp or Google or any other number of review sites.
I have been on Facebook since 2006, Twitter since 2008, and used both platforms as a way to grow the supply company that I used to own. Yes, I even had a very active MySpace account. In the last 3 years. I also am active on YouTube. So let’s better understand and grow your business with Social Media.
So first off what is the point? Why spend time and effort on this social media thing? I think as an industry we are definitely slow to adopt many of the tools available to us with Social Media. If you look at some of the major players in our industry very little time and effort is put into social media. Social media does take lots of time and it is hard to really see the results quickly. Also, for many in our industry, we are more of an analog industry and are just now getting to the digital age. Pad Printers are a prime example. Wonderful creative and talented people that stamp ink. They can make just about anything work, but ask a hardcore pad printer their thoughts on the digital sublimation systems is often “that horrible trouble creating machines can take a flying leap…” But in the right environment with the right market, sublimation can be a savior for a pad printers business. So back to Social media…
So why do we need to be on social media? 37 million people log onto Facebook daily, and in the last 10 minutes, 40,250 Tweets have been posted. How about Google +? Who do most all of us go to when we want to search for something on the internet? There are 5,922,000,000 (Yes that is 5.9 Billion) searches on Google per DAY. Google holds a staggering 67.6 percent of the U.S. search engine market share, according to the latest search engine market share figures for April 2014, released by comScore. Being on G+ and talking about search terms that are important to your business as well as sharing links to your website on G+ correctly will help your search ranking. By improving your search ranking you will have a better likelihood that someone goes to your website who is interested in the products and services you offer. So the numbers are right. There is an audience and chances are most of your customers are somewhere on social media waiting for you to interact with them.
The other reason for many of us to be on social media is the price. The price cannot be beat… FREE! Being on social media is absolutely free and just takes time and effort. There are things you can spend money related to social media that will make things a little easier, but honestly, people doing it right and spending the time needed don’t have to pay a thing to promote their business and find new customers. What are your alternatives to reaching your customers? You could exhibit at a trade show or home show or another event. Plan on spending $5,000 to $10,000 to really do that right. You could do internet advertising with banners or Google AdWords. Plan on spending $1,000 to $2,000 a month to get the kind of reach you can get with social media. You can put ads out on the radio, TV or even the local newspaper, but again they all cost money, a commodity that most small businesses don’t have in abundance yet. Now using social media to improve the ROI (return on investment) for the above things is something you should be looking at doing. Let’s say you spend the $5,000 to display at a local home show, but by luck of the draw end up in a corner behind the local loudmouth realtor and no one comes to see you. How about using social media to get people past the realtor with images of your booth, jokes about the loudmouth realtor, or otherwise. Be yourself and help people come find you.
Another plus for using social media is that because it is not one-sided like many other marketing methods, you don’t have to be the only one growing your business with it. Real quality social media is driven by your customers and potential customers. Your job is to foster interaction between your company and products. This is not the elevator pitch where you have 30 seconds to sell your goods and services, this is the time to talk about things that interest your customer and build a relationship that will turn them into lasting customers. Also, happy customers make the BEST salespeople so give them an outlet to advocate for your brand by having an active social media plan.
So what else can be done on Social Media? With social media, you can also use it as a tool for Customer Service. Yes, I am guilty of using my personal Twitter to vent my frustrations with poor service received by a company. I also try to be aware of shouting out good customer service by companies via social media. Many companies have figured it out and actually do a fantastic job of helping, supporting and taking care of their customers with social media. Then there are the examples of those who have made massive blunders. A company that many of us in our industry might have heard of made the Inc. Magazines top 10 social media fails in 2014 for their posting of a picture of the Challenger space shuttle exploding as a way of celebrating the 4th of July on their Tumblr page. They took a beating for it and the excuse was the social media manager was born after the Challenger disaster and didn’t know it was a picture of the shuttle. On the flip side of this coin you have lots of companies in our industry and beyond that get it and do a great job of interacting with their customers and making social media an integral part of their customer service plan. For example, I’m a loyal flyer on Southwest because of the help I received via their Twitter team when I was having some challenges traveling with my Autistic son. They sprang into action and made our journey a pleasant one and now I hardly fly anyone else. You can do things like monitor for comments about your company or product and then just make sure you are doing the right thing on social media. You have to put yourself in their shoes and wear your “empathy” hat when interacting with folks on social media. Check your ego at the door!
Social media can also be used as a tool for research and product development. You can find all sorts of information about your competitors, your customers, and potential customers on social media. The trick here is to just be part of the conversation. You have to be a human, not just a Twitter Handle or a Facebook Page. You have to give something to get something. This means solving problems, giving tips and tricks, opening the curtain to who you are as a person and company. Once you do this then you can get people to answer questions like “Do you like the black edge plaque with this design or the cherry edge plaque with a different design?” You can also find out if your competitor XYZ Company takes too long to deliver a product, or has other weaknesses that you might be able to take advantage of by being a part of the “group” on social media.
So as you can see to me being a part of social media can be a huge lift for your business and provides you with all sorts of tools to not only promote your business but to also understand and better service your customers. It is free to be a part of it just takes time. But if you think about what your average day looks like, how often are you just reading the latest click bait article that your friend posted on Facebook or looking at the latest Disney quote on Twitter or other time wasting activity. Why not take those 15 minutes and devote it to being active on social media in a way that talks about your business. How about encouraging your employees to be active on social media as it relates to your business. All it takes is for the word to start spreading and you will see results. They won’t be huge or immediate, but if the effort is put in and you are daily being a part of the conversation where your customers are at on social media, you will wake up in 6 months to a year and notice that it is working.
BONUS – Here is a list of useful tools, articles etc. that I use for social media.