Starting a small business can be exciting but also very risky in any environment. According to the United States Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, over 80 percent of small businesses survive the first year, 45 percent survive at least 5 years, and just over 30 percent of these small businesses survive for 10 years. If you are in business for the long run, these numbers aren’t exactly encouraging. Picture opening a new Caribbean based restaurant in New York City. Within a one mile radius, there are 10 other restaurants who offer similar menu items, pricing, and you are all vying for sales from the same audience.
Now while taste can certainly help to set your restaurant apart, there is too much subjectivity in a consumer’s preference of taste to depend on this alone. Consumers are becoming more intelligent by the second and demanding more of the businesses they promote and patronize. How will you differentiate your small business from others that may have potentially already existed for a decade? How will you effectively get your brand’s message across to your audience amongst this hefty competition? The answer lies in social media.
Social Media’s True Power & How to Harness It.
Too many business’s still use social media as a sales tool to sell and promote products to consumers. While engagement in social media may eventually lead to additional sales, it is not the purpose of this medium. Social media is all about connection. Small businesses should use social media as a way to strengthen their relationship with their existing customers and to further grow their audience. This means really getting to know your target market on a deeper level by
- Understanding their likes and dislikes.
- Understanding their interests.
- Identifying which social media platforms they prefer.
- Learning what kinds of content they enjoy most
This is all achieved through direct and daily engagement with them. This is invaluable information gained and it provides the building blocks for a long and more meaningful relationship with your buyers. According to Sprout Social, over 90 percent of marketers stated that the data obtained from social media allowed them to differentiate their brand from their competition.
The Benefits of Social Media to Small Businesses.
So now you’re thinking, “Social media sounds great, but how exactly can it benefit my small business?” Well, here are 6 ways social media can improve your business.
- Increase brand awareness.
2. Increase traffic to your website and retail locations.
3. Generate interest from potential customers you were previously unable to reach.
4. Increase sales
5. Locate trends early.
6. Improved brand sentiment through positive interactions with consumers
Traditional marketing methods in general have limited reach but social media has seemingly unlimited reach. Currently, the world’s population is just under 8 billion people and over half of those use social media. Using social media provides the option to reach more consumers and the more consumers that know about your brand, the better. Over 40 percent of social media users use social media to research a brand before making a purchase (Kemp, 2021). This increased brand awareness can then be strategically converted into increased visits to your business website and physical store locations which can translate to additional sales for your brand. Social media also provides a platform for you to communicate directly with your consumers not only through engagement, but also through general support for your service or product.
Which Social Media Platform Works Best?
As we know, there are many different social media platforms. Choosing the right combination of which platforms make sense for your brand will also play a big role in how effective it is to your audience. Take the restaurant I mentioned earlier; here is how different platforms may come into play.
Facebook is great platform to start with for small businesses because it is has the largest number of active users of any social media platforms. Due to it’s reach, it provides one of the most cost effective campaign ad options in many industries, which provides one of the best opportunities for return on investment. It also has built in campaign and analytical tools, free of charge, that can help a small business keep a track of their social media campaign without additional costs. Some new tools even offer the option to place orders to your restaurant directly on Facebook! Lastly, Facebook also allows you to target specific groups of consumers by age, location, gender, and even interest. This is especially helpful if you already know the consumer type that shops with you currently.
YouTube is also an excellent platform that many restaurants and chefs use to promote their brand. This platform is 100 percent visual, which is great if you wish to show consumers exactly what they will experience by shopping with your brand. Video content is always a great option to go with as more and more consumers want to see videos from the brands they support (An, 2020). Some chefs upload instructional cooking videos with recipes to some of their specialty plates and can receive millions of views on a single video for popular recipes. This helps restaurant to then sell other products like branded seasonings, aprons, and aprons to these consumers. Also, unlike most other social media platforms, YouTube can help to improve your SEO rankings since it is in many ways just the video version of a Google search.
Twitter is a great place to spread information quickly. Restaurants can use this platform as a place to promote events, discounted deals, contests, and communicate with their consumers in less of a formal manner. With hashtags and retweets, one well timed 280 character message can spread to thousands of potential customers within minutes. You can even create a unique hashtag for your restaurant that will bring users right to your business page when clicked.
Don’t Forget Your Existing Customers!
While attracting new customers is great, your current customers who already support your business can play a big role in expanding your brand. Let them know that you’re on social media and what platforms to follow you on through word of mouth or by putting this information on your menus. Encourage them to tag you in posts, share their location, take pictures of their meals, and offer suggestions. This shares your brand with their individual friend circles who could also become your future customers.
Be Swift With Your Responses
Consumers are on social media are seeking quick responses to their inquiries. It provides a great customer experience and increases the probability of them returning to your brand on this medium. While this can be time consuming, depending on the number of interactions you receive daily, it can lead to additional sales for your business. Being responsive is the number one brand action that prompted consumer purchases on social media.
Look At Your Competition
While you may not want to follow exactly what your competitors are doing, paying attention to a successful strategy can help to improve your own. However, don’t be afraid to visit their social media pages and see what they’re doing right. Identifying their areas of improvement could also indicate ways for you to improve your own performance on.
Content, Content, Content
As the phrase goes, “Content is king”. Unique and thoughtful content will keep your consumers connected with you, looking forward to your future posts, and it will continue to build that customer brand relationship. Stay creative, fresh, and keep in mind any new social media or pop culture trends that could help your customers resonate with your brand more.
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Category: Growth Strategies, Social Media Marketing 101, Social Media Marketing 201