Social Media Means Opportunity for Small Business

Just yesterday, one of my clients shared a story about a recent car-buying experience. Apparently, one of the young salesmen at this dealership was on his cell phone texting something. My client’s salesperson said he didn’t know what this guy was doing, other than sending messages out over the Internet about new cars that had just entered their inventory.   It is likely this sales person was utilizing one of the many social media networks to convey this up-to-the-minute information to current and potential customers.   The most interesting part of the story is this:  whatever he was doing was working. Through the use of social media, this salesman was doing double the business of the any of the other salespeople at the dealership.
So, which salesperson would you rather be? Do you want to be a leader, or play catch-up after your competition has run away with the lion’s share of new prospects?
Let’s look at just three ways business people can leverage social media to successfully increase their overall success in the marketplace.
1)    Listening in on customer and industry conversations
Imagine the value of being at a trade show or even in people’s homes and being able to invisibly eavesdrop on what people were saying about you and your company. As you know, listening to customers, prospects and influencers and using their feedback constructively is the foundation of the success of any business. That feedback shapes our products, our service, and our brand reputation. Many companies have thrived or gone out of business based soley on the buzz and word-of-mouth the market generated. In the past, if we wanted to know what the market thought, we commissioned research, had discussions with customers, searched online for competitive info, etc. This could take a bit of time, not to mention money.
Because of social media, this is changing.  Today, by “listening” to online blogs and other conversations in social networks and social media, your business can cut down on the need for time-consuming and extensive research. And, the data are current. With social media, it’s now easier and more efficient to stay in tune with your industry and customers as well. There are now a host of new opportunities to listen to actual online conversations that can give you insight for your own business, AND help you gather information about your competitors at the same time. Wouldn’t it be nice to know about a need for a specific product in near real-time? Or to hear about a gap in a competitors’ offering that perhaps you can fill? With social media, this is now all possible.
2)    Creating connections and building relationships
Succeeding in business is all about building networks and relationships – with customers, prospects, others in your industry, community members, suppliers, referral partners and stakeholders. Social media marketing can help build on your current networking efforts by allowing you to engage in 2-way conversations with these people. Remember that the goal in social media is to create relationships, trust and credibility. It’s not to put on a hard sell.  Social media doesn’t sell “things”. People sell.   Engaging in social media marketing starts or enhances the relationship-building process. We still need to use traditional networking and communication skills to develop a true relationship and instill trust. Social media helps businesses boost sales indirectly by increasing relationships which provide new leads.
It’s not uncommon to strike up a conversation or a partnership with someone overseas. You won’t get that at a face-to-face networking or industry event! Now that’s an efficient way to reach new audiences. And, it’s a new way to communicate with existing audiences.
By the way, I’ve found that the majority of people who actively engage in social media are really nice, polite people. And these are the ones who are most successful in using this medium. Poor social media etiquette and manners is a tip-off to others that they’re either a novice, or just rude.
3)    Customer Relationship Management
We’re so often focused on acquiring new customers that we sometimes lose sight of the need to nurture the ones we have. Social media marketing provides a great mechanism for monitoring your customers’ likes and dislikes, and to improve the feedback loop between you and your customers. For example, social media offers the opportunity to respond quickly to a positive or negative situation and manage the impact on your brand accordingly. There are so many online conversations regarding just this one topic. There are numerous examples of both good and bad handling of complaints, for example.  Some customers even mention that if they had just gotten a response or acknowledgement from the company, they would’ve been satisfied. So use social media to effectively manage a negative situation or pass along thanks to those who praise you!
I hope I’ve planted the seeds to get you excited about using social media marketing in your own business. Next month, more reasons it’s good for business.

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