As a small business website owner, here are three great reasons why you should stay plugged in.
1. Instantly connect with your audience
Imagine if you could immediately locate new customers around the world. Through social media, it’s easy to see who the key players in your industry are (find someone high profile, then take a peek at their Twitter followers or Facebook Fans) and it’s likely that people engaged with these brands are either your customer, or otherwise relevant to your business.
Just as important, you can find the people who are already excited about your product (e.g. customers, distributors), celebrate them, and let them know what other great stuff is in the pipeline. The people who champion your brand can quickly become your greatest asset. Social media is all about the strongest form of marketing there is: word-of-mouth.
2. Play to your strengths: bigger is not necessarily better
Social media levels the playing field for small businesses. While big companies lumber, you are agile. Two of the biggest complaints customers have are: 1) automated phone systems, and 2) delayed email responses. The nature of today’s technology allows you to respond instantly to potential customers who want answers now.
Offering better customer interactions online with an actual person (you) builds your brand’s personality. Creating relationships is the backbone of social media and is something that most large, monolithic companies have difficulty doing, but individuals are terrific at. (Caveat – some large companies CAN get it right. Southwestern Airlines’ customer service on Twitter is an excellent example: http://rationalsecurity.typepad.com/blog/2008/04/off-topic-south.html)
3. If you don’t reach the masses online, someone else will
Just because you aren’t using social media yet, it doesn’t mean your customers aren’t. They may already be singing your brand’s praises (or complaining loudly) on Twitter, Yelp, or any of the countless review sites online. If you aren’t a part of the conversation, you are leaving the door open for a competitor to swoop in. Being present and vocal will help you monitor and manage your brand online.
Small and large businesses alike are spreading their message and expanding their customer base online, and you don’t want miss out. It is cheap to implement: the most popular applications are free, and the only cost is your time.
How should you begin?
Jump in! Without being familiar with the platform, you may not yet know what you are trying to achieve. That is fine: as you learn Twitter, Facebook, or the latest social media tool, the reality of your objectives will become clear.
Think big. Your average customer may result in a $100 purchase, but being mentioned by a top blog could transform your brand into an overnight success. That is the immediacy of the internet – and the nature of social media. Good luck!