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How your small business can cash in on social marketing

The online world of marketing has seen a colossal shift in the way consumers share, communicate and connect. There are great ways for small business owners to benefit from this trend according to Toby Marshall, CEO of Lead Creation.

“There has been a huge increase in the usage and functions of peer-to-peer social networks and real-time technologies,” he says. “Now, 90 percent of people start their buying decisions on the web; they Google their purchases and they read peer reviews.”

Julie Sweet of Certificatesonline says: “Since the inception of social media my business has obtained leverage that was once perhaps never thought possible through new channels, certainly not at such a rapid rate. Social media and the network I have built via LinkedIn and Twitter mostly, has created a brand awareness about my business and also myself that has been wonderful. Through this vital and significantly important network, I have had press releases published, interviews conducted, blogs written and more. The doors that have opened because of my social network have been truly remarkable.”

Peter Taliangis of RealtyOne, adds: “As a real estate agent virtually all my new leads are coming from meeting people online via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Linkedin is my preferred source, because I am dealing with business people all the time.”

Jonathan Crossfield of ninefold, says: “Launching our new Australian cloud computing business, we knew most traditional online forms of advertising would take weeks, if not months, to gain traction. SEO is notoriously slow to produce sales and search engine advertising can be very costly in those first weeks while you optimise and analyse a campaign. We knew our business should go where our audience hangs out online, so we built social media into our marketing plan and, more specifically, our launch strategy.

“We announced our beta program on Twitter and other social networks and published a vibrant blog. This actually brought us our first traffic spike in the first half hour. Within the first hour, we had already hit our first target (number of beta sign-ups); a target we had allowed a week to achieve.

“Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t easy. It took a lot of planning, preparing of the ground and using the right people (influencers) to generate that traction, but the results far outweighed the effort, while giving us a kick start other online marketing just wouldn’t be able to provide: lots of conversions on day one.”

So what can SMEs proactively do this year to engage customers and prospects? Marshall predicts the creation of online tribes and Facebook advertising will have huge benefits for business.

“A good tribe with lots of members is similar to a conference and trade show combined. A conference that’s online 24/7, where you invite all the attendees and are the keynote speaker. Online you have a big, prominent exhibition space where you provide information that positions you as the expert in your field. SMEs can easily achieve two key marketing goals when they create an online tribe: recency plus frequency, and always as the expert.”

Toby shares six ways a strong tribe can transform SME sales:

1. Gain a reputation as an expert in your industry: “Use social media to engage and develop relationships with clients and prospects. Position yourself and stay on their mental radar for when they’re ready to buy.

2. Use it to create word-of-mouth and build your brand: “Relationships create word-of-mouth and it won’t be long before customers are looking for you. Advertising may kick-start word-of-mouth but only brand creates loyalty.

3. No more selling: Rather than spamming customers, find out ways to help them in their day-to-day lives. What is the central problem of your niche, what are they trying to solve? What information are they interested in? Provide tips and advice to gain their attention in this advertising-overrun world.

4. Use it to close sales: An online community where prospects can join and ask questions, and see the questions of others, may be that final tipping point to decide to hire you.

5. Cost-effective tool for after-sales service: By forming an online community, or a tribe, SMEs give clients access to resources that enhances their experience with the SME.

6. Get more testimonials and enhance customer experience: By giving your customers access to resources and your expertise, you enhance their experience and so make them more likely to recommend you; and we know how vital peer recommendations are.

According to Nielson statistics, Australians are rapidly increasing their participation in social media, content sharing and brand interaction. Facebook is their preferred network with it accounting for 56.8% of all visits to social networks in September 2010 (Hitwise).

“Facebook recently trumped Google’s traffic,” says Marshall. “Google is now facing a scary gorilla. Facebook now gives business the ability to use peer recommendations in advertisements. This is significant, as most people tend to trust the opinions of friends.

“Facebook’s advertising model allows business to only show their ad to friends of those who have ‘liked’ their page. With the average Facebook user spending 55 minutes a day on the site, and mobile users spending even more, SMEs can’t afford not to tap into ‘social advertising’.”

We’d love to hear your small business experiences of social marketing lead generation. Feel free to comment below!

Jen Bishop

Jen Bishop

Jen was the publisher at Loyalty Media and editor of Dynamic Business, Australia's largest circulating small business magazine, from 2008 until 2012. She is now a full-time blogger at The Interiors Addict.

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