The promise of social media marketing is alluring. To business owners strapped for time and resources, the thought of connecting with thousands of customers with a few simple keystrokes seems too good to be true. Yet the world of tweets, shares, likes and check-ins can be a confusing place for a newcomer. And many business owners wonder if the results will really be worth the time investment required.
The biggest benefit of social media marketing is the connection it creates between a business and its customers, says Tim Collins, senior vice president of experiential marketing for Wells Fargo. People like to buy from businesses with whom they have a personal relationship, and social media helps build those bonds, he says.
However, this type of marketing does require a significant time investment, Collins acknowledges. And it may not make sense for your marketing strategy if you don’t have the time to invest. “If you don’t have enough time to do it well,” Collins says, “having a presence across the various social media channels can do more harm than good.”
For the time-strapped small business owner, Collins recommends a “passive listening” type of approach. He suggests that all business owners surf the web to see what customers are saying about their businesses. Sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor are great for viewing aggregated comments, he says, but you can begin by searching for your business on Google.
What’s crucial to this approach, however, is responding to your customers’ compliments and concerns: Thank them for positive feedback and tell them you’re sorry if they had a bad experience. When responding to negative comments, make sure to provide upset customers with a phone number or e-mail address where they can discuss the problem further — and in private. This prevents you from airing any of your business’s “dirty laundry” for others to see, Collins says.
If you do decide to be active in social media, you should focus on one or two sites that make the most sense for your business type, rather than trying to make yourself visible on every channel, Collins says. Business owners in the B2B industry, for example, might want to join LinkedIn for its close business ties. The highly social nature of Facebook is great for businesses like salons, which thrive on a loyal client base, while Twitter is most useful to someone who makes a lot of announcements, such as a food truck owner whose sales depend on letting customers know where his or her truck will park next.
The frequency of your interactions on these sites is largely up to you, Collins says, and will vary from business to business. However, for Twitter, he recommends tweeting several times a day, and for Facebook, he recommends at least one post per day. For a blog, you should look to add content two or three times a week.
Whether you choose to be a more passive listener or an active participant in the social media sphere, it’s important to make sure you treat all of your customers fairly online. “A customer scorned in real life or in social media now has the power to reach many,” he says. “Conversely, a happy customer will also tell all their friends.”
As a TV & Radio personality for a few years Shifa has become a sought after speaker and online media consultant.