It seems social media just keeps getting more and more popular – especially for businesses. Think about it, how often do you see major companies pushing you to their facebook pages in billion dollar TV commercials? On the other side of things, small businesses leverage social media and often rely heavily on social media as their main CRM centers.
Whether you have a successful existing business, or are just launching your first start-up you’ll quickly see how valuable social is as a casual communication tool and a unique channel for understanding your customers. Read on, and learn how to launch your social media channel with fast success!
Start at the Top
There are several social media networks out there, and even more trying to get on the map. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to focus on the number one KING of all social networks: Facebook. These guys essentially invented, and definitely normalized social media for the entire world – including businesses. If you were to pick and choose which network to participate in, there would be no contest: the answer is Facebook.
Growing a Fan-Base
In order to see any value from facebook, you’re going to need a healthy group of fans/followers. You can always promote your social media page on your website, or even in other paid advertising channels – but this can take significant investment. An excellent, effective, and relatively cheap method for creating a large fan-base quickly is with contests. It’s easy to create a contest on your facebook page where “liking” the page serves as the key entry terms for entering the contest. Then, after a set period of time (usually about two or three months) you choose a winner randomly from all the new “likes.” While it may be tempting to give away something where you know you’ll get the most likes fastest (like an iPod) it’s actually best to stick to some of your products/services – or at least something from your industry. This will help ensure that the people who end up following your page might actually have interest in buying your product. For example, if you are a printing company – you should give away something like Business Cards. A hot electronics product as your prize will likely explode your following in a matter of mere days – but the majority could be mostly 15 year old kids from foreign nations. Perhaps this is the kind of following you’re looking for, but for most businesses – this isn’t the case.
So, even with a targeted group of industry professionals identified that you’d love to enter your contest and follow your page, how do you reach them? An obvious start is a targeted email list of your existing customers and inquirers. Having these folks active on your social media page is of extreme value (more to come on this), and you should contact them with the promotion. If you have no existing email list for promoting the contest, it’s definitely not a waste of money to invest in some Facebook Advertising
. Even with a small spend (say $200) you’re going to get your contest ad promoted in the sidebar of pages that you target and choose specifically for the industries you want to attract. This will get your fan-base growing quickly, with lots of relevant industry followers.
The Value of Social Media for Businesses
You may be reading all of this wondering “so why do I really need followers on my business’ facebook page anyway?”Even if you haven’t asked that question, and already have hundreds of followers – you may still be asking yourself “what do I do now?” What’s essential to realize is that having these individuals following your page is an incredible opportunity at a completely unique communication channel. During the past decade, channels like Email Marketing have found themselves weakened by the extreme “push” type messaging that was never truly asked for in the first place. The difference with social is that the fans have actually chosen to follow you and hear your messages. This unique relationship doesn’t involve messages for them to sift through, read, or SPAM – but these messages get placed directly into the follower’s news feeds, becoming part of something they review meticulously one a daily, or sometimes hourly basis. This fact is the precise reason you absolutely should not treat your facebook fan-base like an email list. Your facebook content should not be sales driven, and completely about creating and solidifying relationships.
Content: Set the Tone for Engagement
Okay, so your followers have some minor initial interest in your business based on your first interaction – whether that is a contest, funny anecdote, or customer relationship. Now it’s time to work for the privilege of staying in their news stream. Your content has to remain humorous, yet educational – and most importantly, extremely engaging. The upside of this challenge is that you have your own custom market research test group literally at your finger tips. If you toss out a brand new service or product idea and ask for feedback, you’re going to get some powerful and unfiltered data. The more truly unique things you post about, the more people will comment, share, and engage with your content – and the more followers you will earn for your page.
As a side note to tone, it’s really important to keep things light on Facebook. You can be edgy and educational as it suits your industry, but don’t bore people with white papers on things they’ve already heard a thousand times before. This will get you dropped from their news feed like a bad habit.
The Conversion Process – Making Followers Inquirers
Facebook isn’t just a great place to get feedback on your business, you should at some point expect to create some new customers form the channel (it’s just not its main purpose.) It’s not that you can’t court your followers to become new customers, you just have to understand that most of them have entered a relationship with your business at the compete top of the funnel in the buying process. For example, if someone is using traditional search engine channels to find your business, they are fairly likely to buy quickly – and should be communicated to with respect to that fact. Conversely, if you courted someone to follow you on social media – and they’ve never heard of your business in any other place, they’re probably more likely to become a customer in six months to a year. Therefore, it’s grossly inappropriate to cram sales coupons and offers down their throats on a weekly or even monthly basis. What social media is perfect for is the subconscious branding of you as the witty industry expert – the one your followers will turn to instinctively when they find themselves in need of your product.
A great rule of thumb for the whole social media for businesses experiment is to just have fun! If you’re having fun with the content your posting, that will come through to your fan-base. Who knows, you might even go viral! If facebook and social media in general is something you do only when you have to, and dread creating content for – it’s going to come through to your followers, and nobody wants to follow that kind of thing. So have fun, be strategic, and go for it!