Social media offers astounding potential for businesses of any size to reach prospective customers. Companies are now able to develop a brand personality that is instantly accessible to target audiences. The business benefits of social media are widely spread, but small businesses have the most to gain.
Interestingly, MasterCard’s Merchant Scope study suggests that local companies still rely heavily on cost-heavy traditional marketing channels to reach existing and potential customers, such as newspaper advertising (59 percent) and direct email (46 percent). Only 36 percent of South African businesses use social media for marketing.
Social media has changed the competitive landscape by levelling the playing field for small businesses that don’t have the resources to compete with big brands in terms of traditional marketing budgets. Thanks to the relatively low monetary cost of participation, the rewards of marketing using social media are available to any business willing to invest some time and human effort.
Ajeet Khurana, writing for the MasterCard Business Network Blog, advises against a formulaic approach to social media marketing. He reminds small businesses that social media channels are just a communication tool – your customers matter most.
“Your social media audience – customers and potential customers – are human beings who value relevance, trust and engagement,” he says.
Ajeet suggests that business owners forget they are using social media and focus on communicating with their customers instead:
- Start conversations as you would naturally, don’t change how you communicate because the communication channel is different.
- Instead of trying to bait visitors to engage with your brand, spend that time visiting the accounts of customers and get to know them.
- If someone mentions your company, comments on an update or asks a question – respond.
- Don’t wait for potential customers to notice you, search for posts by brands or individuals that are relevant to your business and start networking with them.
- Don’t focus only on customers, engage with experts, influencers, suppliers and other individuals who may influence your business.
Over time, social media enables small businesses to build relationships, and people in a company’s social networks will see that organisation as a valuable contributor to conversations. Once your business reaches this point, it will realise the true rewards of social media: relationships, credibility, influence and feedback.