Sixty-six percent of small and mid-size businesses are using social media to generate leads, according to Street Fight’s own Local Merchant Survey, but there’s more to managing an effective social media strategy than just opening a Facebook account and posting a few updates each week.
In addition to generating leads, building brand awareness, and adding credibility to a business, a well-implemented social strategy should also lower a merchant’s overall marketing expenses. Social media is oftentimes less expensive than other types of marketing—especially offline channels, like direct mail and television—and it can easily be used to leverage a merchant’s complimentary marketing programs. (For example, when a business shares promo codes from its direct mailers with fans on Facebook.)
Here are six social media tactics that merchants should try, with the goal of reducing overall marketing costs.
1. Let organic posts inform paid social efforts. “Oftentimes brands will simultaneously release organic and paid social content in an effort to boost reach and engagement. While the integrated approach is commendable and recommended, a more tiered distribution, starting with organic followed by paid, can be a smarter strategy. Rather than immediately spending with no indication of projected performance, validate the organic content that has traction and resonates. Then, even in a matter of hours or days, put ad dollars behind the already performing posts and you’ll be more cost effective.” (Andrew Caravella, Sprout Social)
2. Take advantage of the low cost of online ads. “Merchants should be advertising on Facebook. Forget about regular ads in the local newspaper—chances are your target audience spends hours more on Facebook than it does with newspaper in hand. By using all the great targeting features with Facebook ads, you not only get your message in front of the people most eager to learn about you, but you can often do this, in full color, for less than $5 a day.” (Lisa Kalner Williams, AgoraPulse)
3. Use Twitter for free email list management. “Think of Twitter as an extension to your email list. The reason for that is because if you think about it, Twitter truly is a free email list management service. It provides you with an audience that costs you nothing but thought. If you’ve built an email list to any size, there is a cost to manage it and see that your email messages get to their intended recipients. I use MailChimp, and there is a monthly cost, yet my Twitter followers cost me nothing. And now with Twitter increasing the character limitation size, it really is something many businesses need to embrace.” (Dana Philip Ward, near9)
4. Incentivize customers to post positive reviews. “Instead of spending money to increase positive reviews online, offer a coupon or discount via local merchant channels. Yelp lets you offer an incentive when a customer checks-in and Angie’s List lets you share a coupon. The small expense for each will not only encourage new and repeat business, but provide you with a platform to increase positive reviews. Customers who receive a special deal, often leave positive feedback.” (Andy Beal, Reputation Refinery)
5. Keep in touch with loyal customers for free. “The more current customers a business has, the less financial resources have to be put in to acquiring new ones. So, you should keep your social media followers updated about your company to ensure they remain interested and loyal. A great way to do this is by sending regular, personalized reminders about your offers. Let your social media followers know about new items on your menu or new services you provide. Let them know about events organized at your location and they might just join. This way you keep your locations busy with your most loyal customers and need to spend less money on acquiring new clients.” (Victor Landau, uberall)
6. Use social tools to recruit top talent. “Typically we don’t think of recruiting when discussing marketing, but there is not a big difference. Getting your message out there to increase the value of your business requires talent and utilizing any free social media tool as a recruiting source helps with distributing that message.” (Dana Philip Ward, Near9)
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.