A survey of small business owners by the online networking and promotional service Manta.com found that 90 percent are actively engaged in social networking sites, while 74 percent perceive social networking as valuable, if not more so, than networking in-person.
What’s more, nearly half of the respondents said gaining and targeting prospective customers is the most valuable benefit of networking online. And 78 percent reported having gained at least a quarter of their new customers through online or social media channels that year.
For new and existing small business owners, the message is clear. Social media is an increasingly essential element of a marketing strategy. If that’s where your customers are, you need to be there too.
First, however, one needs to understand that unlike conventional “one-way” marketing tools, social media is a two-way interactive medium between real people.
“An effective social media strategy must be tied to your customer buy cycle—when and where customers make purchasing decisions,” observes consultant Jeanne Rossomme, founder of RoadMap Marketing. “Do they ask other for referrals/recommendations? Do they use their mobile devices to search for information? And on which social media networks are they especially active? The answers will help keep you develop a focused social media strategy.”
Rossomme adds that social media content is more an issue of quality versus quantity. “About 80 percent of your Facebook posts, Tweets, and LinkedIn Group posts should be reacting to others and promoting them,” she says. “No more than 20 percent of your communications should be of a promotional or sales nature. Focus on talking about things that are of value to your clients and prospects.
Gauging the success of social media efforts depends on what effect of the buy cycle the business wants to evaluate. For awareness, visits from Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook will be key indicators. Metrics for interaction include comments on blog and Facebook posts, and the number of friends/followers and viewers.
“To measure conversions—people who buy your product or service—look at the percentage taking advantage of promotional offers,” Rossomme says. “And don’t forget to ask all new clients how they first heard about you.”
For more help in shaping a comprehensive marketing strategy, contact Raleigh SCORE. We provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners. To schedule a free appointment with our experienced counselors, go to http://raleigh.score.org, or call us at 919-856-4739.