By Missy Sheehan
According to the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, one of the top challenges for small businesses today is attracting new customers. In fact, 21 percent of small-business owners mentioned this concern during telephone interviews conducted for the index. They also mentioned financial stability, cash flow and competition from other businesses as major concerns. So, what can small-business owners do to help overcome some of these problems? The answer is simple: get social!
With 72 percent of online adults using social media these days, an engaging presence on sites like Facebook and Twitter is key to helping business owners solve many of their top challenges.
Here are just a few ways social media can help:
Attracting New Customers—And Keeping Them
Social media gives your business a voice. And you can use that voice to start a two-way conversation to attract and connect with your target customers.
Social Media gives your business a voice.
To connect with people, you have to share part of yourself with them. Potential customers want to know your business’s story. So share it with them. Tell them who you are and why you started your business. Tell them your vision for the future. Tell them what motivates you. Tell them how your products and services can help them without sounding like a salesperson.
Sharing your story lets potential customers know that there’s a real person behind your business; that you care about them and their needs and that you want their business, not their money.
It takes more than just throwing up a few quick posts every week to connect with people, though. Once you’ve attracted customers to your page, the key is to keep them engaged so they’ll keep coming back to your business regularly.
Be sure to post relevant, interesting content to your social media pages. Otherwise, your fans may lose interest and stop following you. Photos, tips, relevant news articles, polls, coupons, contests and sale announcements are some popular types of posts.
Increasing Cash Flow
Once you’ve attracted new customers and connected with them via your awesome social media presence, you should begin to see an increase in sales and cash flow.
One of the key reasons to use social media to promote your business is that it can actually reduce your total marketing costs. Posting to Facebook and Twitter is free and unlimited, so you’re actually saving money by using social media instead of traditional advertising methods like ads in print publications and direct-mail campaigns. And by saving money in advertising costs, you’re putting more money in your pocket.
Try running ad campaigns on Facebook or Twitter as another alternative to traditional advertising. Not only is it fairly inexpensive to do so, but you can actually narrow your audience down by criteria like age, gender, location and interest so you’re only paying to advertise to people most likely to be interested in your business.
Keep An Eye On Your Competition
An engaging social media presence can help set your business apart from your competition, showing potential customers that you aim to be the best in the area. The openness and transparency of social media gives you an invaluable opportunity to look at what your competition is doing first hand. We have never had this available to us in the past.
Is your competition offering a discount or special deal on social media? Offer a better one.
Is your competition slow to respond or completely unresponsive to customer feedback or complaints? Address your customers’ concerns promptly and professionally (something you should be doing anyway!).
Another way to set your business apart from your competition is by offering your customers small nuggets of information to show them you’re the area’s expert. If you’re a real estate agent in Inwood, W.Va., for example, share tips for house hunting in the area. If you’re a florist in Martinsburg, share tips on how to choose a floral arrangement to suit a particular occasion.
By showing potential customers that your business aims to be the best, you’re inspiring customer loyalty, which keeps them coming back to your business versus your competition.
Now that you’re armed to battle your small business’s top challenges, get out there and get social!