New Media Communications Strategies For Small Business Awareness & Growth
Ever since the advent of Microsoft Windows in the mid-nineties, which made the computer as a mode of communication more accessible to most everyone, people have been trying to figure out how to leverage its communicative power to have their business interests grow. In other words … How can one use New Media communications to make money and have their businesses grow to meet the needs of more potential customers?
The next layer that has developed over these last one and a half decades are programs that help people to connect with additional ease to share interests, ideas, information, and just plain communicate on a broader field more quickly. This layer is called social media, and when used properly, social media can help a growing business boost brand awareness, improve customer relations, garner market research, even bolster sales. As the number of people who use social media rises, many marketing experts believe it’s essential for even the smallest of companies to consider developing a strategy to utilize this resource.
The worst effort a small business can put forth in this arena is to enter the world of New Media communications without a focus or a plan upon which the small business can leverage its limited resources to take advantage of the many social media communications opportunities that exist. As always, a business desires to place in motion a plan that will have a great chance at success, otherwise, why bother … just run an ad in the local paper which fewer people bother to purchase, let alone read.
Logging on to a computer just takes a few clicks to potentiality connect one with thousands of business contacts and customers … in addition to setting up networking strategies, business owners can use social media to glean useful insights by reading comments made by customers, industry experts, even competitors.
This excerpted and edited from the Tucson Citizen –
Small businesses use social media to grow
by Laura Petrecca on Feb. 16, 2012
Hamburger chain Smashburger has become a smash hit, growing from three Denver locations in 2007 to 150 outposts nationwide. And while its Angus-beef burgers and unique toppings have helped to propel its success, its secret sauce is social-media outreach.
Smashburger offers coupons and trivia contests for its 67,000 Facebook followers, replies to questions and complaints on its Twitter and Facebook profiles, and actively reaches out to bloggers who might write about the new Smashburger restaurants opening in their areas.
“The brand was really built on social media and PR strategies,” says Jeremy Morgan, senior vice president of marketing and consumer insights. “Social media is an opportunity for us to engage with consumers and have a conversation, which is different than paid media, when you’re just shouting through a bullhorn.”
“Everybody should take a look at it,” says Dan Galbraith, owner of marketing support company Solutionist and a National Small Business Association board member.
“Whether they chose to jump into social media or not is a question that only they can answer,” he says, but all firms should at least explore how social media could work for them. “There’s a lot of good information floating out there,” he says.
A time investment
It takes dedication to achieve social-media success.
“The common misconception about social media is that it’s free,” says Morgan. “Facebook and Twitter accounts are free, but for small business owners in particular, time comes at a premium.”
To keep from feeling overwhelmed, business owners should decide how much time they can dedicate to this burgeoning arena, says Galbraith. Some may need to hire social-media help.
Either way, business owners should first set goals, he says. For instance, an owner might want to increase store traffic by 20% by offering coupons via Facebook or another social-media site. Or a business-to-business company could plan to reconnect with 10 former clients and re-establish solid relationships in the next three months.
The goals should be clear-cut, but as many business owners have learned, the initial strategies might have to change.
While marketing experts advocate joining the social-media conversation, most say that doing it poorly — such as combining personal and professional updates or not posting information consistently — is worse than not doing it at all.
“Consumers won’t stick around, and you won’t get much traction,” says Morgan.
There are some basic social media tenets to keep in mind, says Sabina Ptacin, co-founder of ‘Preneur, which provides tools and resources for small businesses.
She first suggests that business owners “baby step it out,” to see what feels comfortable to them and is do-able. Those who can’t contribute on a daily basis might want to hold off on creating a public profile.
“You can’t post once a week and think it’s going to make an impact,” she says. “You need to constantly be contributing, definitely every day.”
She counsels social-media users to think of it as circulating during a cocktail party.
“I always tell people to pretend that they’re at a party and (act) how they would behave,” she says. “No one wants to talk to the person who is always talking about themselves. … They want you to ask them questions and engage in conversations.”
A business should also understand that the communicative strata of social media is as varied as there are concepts and interests held by humans themselves. Most are aware of social platforms as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the like but many could gain from understanding other social communications platforms such as SodaHead, Pinterest, Google+, Stumble, as well as other syndicated message and image sharing environments.
A business must decide what niche(s) it speaks to, and can participate in upon which they can contribute so as to receive the benefits of engagement. A well placed pebble thrown into a pond sets up a communications wave that can reap incredible benefits … social media environments are just well placed ponds for well placed communications pebbles.
** Article first published as New Media Communications Strategies For Small Business Awareness & Growth on Technorati **