Today, most small businesses know that using technology such as web sites, email marketing, and online advertising can be much less expensive and often more effective than using older, more traditional methods of marketing like print ads, radio, or television. But with the explosion of social networking sites now covering the digital landscape, small businesses have a new low-cost marketing channel to explore: Social Media.
While social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are probably the most popular types of social media today, social media channels for businesses also include bookmarking sites like de.li.ccious and Digg, corporate blogs and blog-related sites like Technorati, Video sharing sites like YouTube, and photo sharing sites such as Flickr. The list goes on, of course, but the point is that there are lots of ways to use these low-cost or no-cost social media sites for marketing a small business.
The trick for most small businesses, though, is to select only the social media channels that make sense for their particular business, and then learn how to use these channels as an effective marketing tool. Here are some tips to consider if you are thinking about leveraging social media as part of your small business' marketing mix:
* Stick to the "biggies" (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube). This is where the greatest number of users are each and every day, so make your time investment count and put your efforts into the sites that will give you the most visibility with your target market.
* Be consistent. You must post fresh information on a regular basis to keep the interest of your visitors and the search engines, since no one wants to read old, outdated information. (The same goes for your web site, but that's another article!)
* Re-use your existing marketing information. Put your e-newsletter on a custom Facebook tab and share it with your fans. Add how-to videos or testimonials on your YouTube channel. Upload your latest press release to your web site and tweet a link to it using Twitter. You can get a lot more mileage out of what you are already doing if you promote it using social media as well.
* Integrate all of your social media channels to work together. Cut down on the time it takes to post information by integrating, rather than leaving each profile as a separate "island" that must be updated individually. Integration means that you do not have to re-enter information multiple times, and ensures that each social media channel will always have the most recent information without adding any extra work for you or your staff. (Need help with this part? Check out our Integrated Social Marketing ISM® services for small business.)
* Track and measure your results. There is an abundance of free web tools available for tracking and monitoring social media, so use them to follow what's happening with your efforts online. We highly recommend using Google Alerts (googlealerts.com), a free service that delivers a list of each instance of your company (or keyword phrase) being mentioned anywhere on the web, and emails it right to your inbox. Tools like BackTweets (backtweets.com) and Techrigy (techrigy.com) are also useful free tools that can help you track and measure your results.
* Put links to your social channels on your web site, and vice versa. This is also part of Integration, above, but bears extra repeating. These links will provide your social networking visitors with direct links to the high-value content on your web site, plus gives all visitors an easy way to learn more about you through direct links between your web site and social channels.
Adding social media to your marketing mix does not have to be difficult or time-consuming, especially if you have a plan for selecting the right social channels for your business, re-using your existing marketing materials as content, and integrating your social channels To work together to save you time and effort.
Online marketing is already a great way for small businesses to cut their marketing costs, since it is typically so much less expensive than traditional print or mass-media marketing. Plus, now that social media is reaching such huge audiences (eg, Facebook now has more than 400 million users, and half of these log in to their account EVERY day), it's a natural extension to online marketing. By adding social media to your small business marketing mix, you can easily reach a much larger target audience, while still keeping your marketing costs low.