Note: This article was filed by a paid contributor to Xerox Corporation.
At the risk overstating the obvious, building a social media presence needs to be an integral component of any successful business today. But can you do it in a cost-effective way that maximizes your return on time and investment?
One of the first things every dealer or MSP needs to figure out is exactly what they hope to accomplish from their social media footprint. Before hiring a social media manager – or even a whole team – your company needs to clearly define and articulate whatever it hopes to achieve from its social media strategy.
It doesn’t necessarily require paying for third-party social media management apps or increasing headcount to meet your objectives.
Plan for Success
Are you only interested in marketing new products and services to drive sales? Do you want to build relationships with customers, vendors and potential new customers to boost your profile within the community? Do you want to learn more about your customers and competitors? Chances are, it’s a little bit of everything.
But you can’t be everything to everyone on social media – especially if you’re trying to do it on the cheap. According to Hubspot, a developer and marketer of software for inbound marketing and sales, 84 percent of businesses primarily use Facebook and Twitter. Sure, there’s LinkedIn and Snapchat and Pinterest, but prioritize accordingly.
More and more these days, social media has become the first stop for customer service. People have moved past the point of merely using these sites for information, awareness and entertainment. The bar has been raised.
Consider the Customer Experience
Customers want immediate resolution. If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, your customers will not hesitate to complain when something goes wrong. Someone or, better yet, multiple people within your organization need to be responsible for reviewing, managing and responding to these interactions – quickly. Ideally, especially with small companies, the respondent should be the person who actually understands the problem and can take action to fix or assuage the situation.
While it’s never great to have a customer put you on blast for all their Twitter followers or Facebook friends to see, it’s actually a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your value as long as you respond in a timely and transparent manner. It doesn’t cost money to do the right thing.
Once your social media objectives, ambassadors and focus have been established, it’s time to start generating a meaningful return on investment for your social media endeavors.
Authenticity – or at least the perception of authenticity – is what it’s all about. One of the biggest mistakes SMBs make on social media is sharing identical posts across multiple platforms. It doesn’t cost anything but a little extra time to repurpose the same message or theme in a couple of different ways. Few things will turn off your audience more than a sense that you’re on autopilot.
Similarly, don’t post at the exact same time of the day or the week. It reeks of automation and impersonality. Shake it up. There are tools out there such as Buffer, Hootsuite and Oktopost that will charge you to help schedule your posts, but you can figure a lot of this out on your own.
Quality Over Quantity
No matter when or where you post on social media, the quality of your content and the value it provides your followers will make or break you. You don’t need elaborate sets and professional equipment to create a compelling video for your audience. In fact, a more polished or professional video can be a lot less interesting than a spontaneous, poorly lit 45-second clip taken with your phone.
Get creative. There’s a lot going on within your company that might seem mundane or unspectacular. But a quick video or a picture of something going on in the office or out in the field might garner more interaction and feedback than you’d ever expect. It’s okay if it’s not even specific to the business. Your audience clamors for the unexpected and unique.
Speaking of the audience, social media only works when it’s a two-way street. If you don’t have a lot of resources to throw at this stuff, you need to be selective about the people and companies you follow. With this narrowed dashboard, you should have the time to read and see what your customers, partners and industry thought leaders care about. Reply in kind and make sure your missives are specific and demonstrate a genuine interest in their posts. Simply clicking “like” isn’t good enough.
You can get caught up in the vanity metrics of traffic, likes and shares. Those are important. But your goal should be to create dialogue that results in sales leads and conversions. That’s something you can’t put a price on.
Bargains Aren’t (Necessarily) Bad
Along those lines, always be on the look out for coupons and discounts for ads on the major search engines. You have a website, right? You’re probably buying ads already. Google, Bing, Yahoo and, to a lesser extent these days, Facebook, often offer ad credits that can be worth several times more than your initial ad spend.
These companies want to grow their SMB business, too. Many web-hosting providers also offer free Google or Bing ad credits when you sign up. Make a call or two and see what you can get. It all adds up.
Eight in 10 buyers start their purchasing process by doing online research. Of this vast majority of would-be customers, 75 percent start on social media.
Contests, discounts and giveaways are another way to expand your reach and tap into new customers with minimal investment. Having followers share or retweet a post to get something of value might seem a little thirsty, but everyone knows how the game is played. You get your message out, pick up some new followers and expose your products and services for future sales.
Word of mouth is still the most effective form of advertising and this is what it looks like today. Building and leveraging your social media efforts doesn’t have to be expensive. If you approach it with the same urgency and attention to detail as all your other core business processes, both your company and your customers will realize value beyond the bottom line.
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