As a small business owner I get excited about the opportunity Social Media provides as marketing tool to better understand my audience. I am surprised when I talk to other business owners who are reluctant to learn more about the benefits of social media for their business. One stand out benefit is the low to no cost of social media, giving small business the chance to compete on a level playing field with larger companies with deeper pockets. My goal in writing this blog is to help small business owners understand the benefit social media can bring to their business and how to get value out of your online communities.
Thanks to Hubspot I was fortunate enough to sit in on some of the classes being taught at the FREE online course for Inbound Marketing by Inbound Marketing University #IMU. The session on Social Media and Building Communities by Chris Brogan at New Marketing Labs was extremely valuable as he shared his insights on how to succeed with social media.
The takeaway for me was the benefit of social media marketing for small business: Social media provides a FREE platform for small business owners to get to know their audience at a personal level and better understand their needs and values. Previously, this level of consumer insight, for many small business owners was not possible due to the high cost of market research. Today there is a level playing field giving small business owners the same level of consumer knowledge as large corporations. Another benefit to small business is the ability to build a high level of trust and rapport with their audience and compete with reputable consumer and corporate brand names that have been around for decades.
The key to achieving the most value out of social media for your business is how you interact with your audience.
Chris Brogan brought up a very important value to remember when building online communities, it's all about your audience! Think about your audience and what their needs are and don't promote your product. To most marketers this is nothing new, however for many small business owners when it comes to marketing your own business this very important lesson is lost. This may be because your business is a lot more personal, it is you, compared to being an employee working for a larger firm. However, nothing changes with your audience and so the mindset of a marketer whether it's for a product or service, small or large firm, is to communicate with your audience in their value system.
A great way to get started is to join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that represent your target audience. If you have enough contacts of your own, you may like to start your own Facebook business page, group or LinkedIn group. Whether you decide to create your own group or join one, here are some valuable insights I got from Chris Brogan's session that should help you with building successful online relationships with your audience.
1. Location: Take the time to find out where your audience is and join them there.
2. It's all about them: They're not interested in your company or your goals, people will connect with people they get value from. So take the time to get to know your audience online. Ask questions, engage, interact and find out what their goals are.
3. Be humble: Be grateful for your connections and followers and take the time to communicate with them without pushing your own agenda. Think of yourself as a participant not the owner.
4. Listen and acknowledge: Listening is a key point but the second step to this, which is just as important, is taking action. Let your audience know you hear them, even if you don't agree.
5. Give! Give! Give!: Encourage your audience to succeed by giving them what they need or desire. Not what you want to give them. Answer questions and offer free advice.
6. ROI of Social Media: Taking the time to build strong relationships and networks helps with; referrals, credibility, reputation, awareness, lead generation, customer awareness, research and development.
Did this bog post help you understand the value social media can bring to your small business? Does it help with understanding how to approach social media and what your goals should be? Welcome your feedback and comments.