More than four out of every five small businesses now use Facebook as a marketing vehicle, but that doesn’t mean merchants on Main Street have social media all figured out. Thirty-one percent of merchants who don’t use social media say they “don’t know how,” and 13% say they “don’t know what to post.” In a separate survey conducted by Vocus, a cloud-marketing vendor, only one-quarter of SMBs cited social media as their most effective marketing tool.
Taken as a whole, these statistics show that vendors aiming to support merchants in their social media activities still have plenty of room for growth. Here are seven strategies for maximizing the success of an existing social media campaign from a few of the experts who work in this field.
1. Complete your profiles. “SMBs need to prioritize and complete their social media profiles across various sites. The biggest mistake SMBs make is quickly establishing social media profiles without completing background information or properly completing their profile pages. While it is important to claim and protect your brand presence across social media sites, it is also critical to fill in product and service details in order to be found when consumers search for keywords related to your business. On profiles, use consistent descriptions, keywords, and geo-modifiers for the best results. Also, photos and videos can help increase a social profile’s visibility.” (Chris Marentis, Surefire Social)
2. Listen up. “Listen to what is being said in the community around you. Set up listening operators in your social media management tool to connect with and build a relationship with the most important social audience there is outside of your existing customers: your local community. This geo-local audience is the single best way to build social likes and followers organically; give people reasons to care about you socially and create an affinity with your brand by making the effort of outreach.” (Andy White, Sprout Social)
3. Understand your audience. “While there is no “one size fits all” advice for local businesses, there are some tactics that are beneficial to follow. Take time to understand your audience. Who are they and how can you benefit them with your social media accounts? When posting, avoid a constant stream of self-promotional posts. Instead, take time to share advice and articles that would benefit your customers—even if written by someone else. When a conversation is directed at your business, you should not delay in responding. Many customers now consider social media channels as a valid way to receive customer service, so not responding to a tweet or Facebook comment is akin to not picking up your telephone or ignoring an email.” (Andy Beal, Trackur)
4. Don’t be an attention hog. “Most local businesses want to focus content on themselves, which seems intuitive. However, the reality is that social media is more like a cocktail party, and what’s the secret to a good cocktail party? An engaging conversation. We’ve all met that guy at a cocktail party who only knows how to talk about himself. Do the same with your social media, and you’ll get the same response. When guests at a party are engaged with one another, the conversation is better, and when the conversation is better, people have a great time. When people have a great time, they tell everyone about what a great time they had. The same thing is true when it comes to social media.” (David Kreitzer, Main Street Hub)
5. Develop a strategy. “SMBs should create a strategy for each social media site, including an editorial calendar of potential posts. They should also think of social media content in two buckets: special offers/promotions, and informative content. Special offers including contests, coupons and sweepstakes are important as users are drawn to special opportunities and are more likely to share these posts. As for educational or informative content, social media followers will continue to engage with a business if content is relevant and valuable to them. They are also more likely to comment on, share and like posts that are informative increasing social signals and visibility for a business.” (Chris Marentis, Surefire Social)
6. Encourage check-ins with rewards. “Create a Foursquare special that rewards repeat customers. A Foursquare special that is unlocked after multiple visits gives your social audience a reason to promote their patronage to their respective circles. Repeat check-ins means each individual chasing your promotion has become a personal social ambassador for your business. Educate your staff so that when the special is claimed the customer is not greeted by blank stares.” (Andy White, Sprout Social)
7. Take advantage of cross promotions. “We constantly implement strategies to cross-promote the various social media websites we manage for our local business clients. Encourage your Facebook fans to follow you on Twitter and vice versa. Share your positive reviews on your Facebook page. Got a new check in on Foursquare? Ask them to ‘like’ your Facebook page, follow you on Twitter or visit your Yelp or Google+ page.” (David Kreitzer, Main Street Hub)
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.