Social Media Marketing - A Wake Up Call for Small Businesses

I tried not to work much over the holiday period (hope you had a great break yourself by the way!). But I did get lured into devouring a fascinating article profiling one simple change that can transform the success of a small business. I don't know the business coach who authored the post, so I'm not going to endorse it here. But suffice it to say that they illustrated the difference between two small businesses, one of which could bring in new leads and convert them quickly... whilst the other one struggled to do so. Everything else about the two businesses was assumed to be the same.

The difference in how these businesses did after just one year was staggering - and made me think this should be a wake-up call for anyone running a small business...

Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses

In one scenario the small business becomes hugely valuable in a remarkably short space of time. In the other the business plods along and the owner constantly has the worry hanging over them about whether they'll have enough new business coming through in the next months. I don't know about you, but I like going to bed at night knowing that my business is doing so well we're having to turn away work - not worrying if I can pay our staff this month!

The key message is that the simple act of being able to consistently attract quality leads completely transforms the value of your business and your enjoyment of owning the business (as does the ability to then convert those leads into sales).

Turning on the taps to bring a flood of leads into your business

You may well be one of those business owners who's actually finding it harder to generate new client leads. People seem increasingly less responsive to email marketing don't they? Whilst cold calls just aren't as effective as they used to be. Pay-per-click marketing is becoming ever more costly... and getting your website to rank highly on search engines is a constant battle. Some of this sound familiar?

If you're keen to boost the flow of new leads into your business, social media may just be the secret sauce you've been looking for. You see one of the most exciting things about social media is the way it can bring a flood of new leads into a business - and in a manner that is consistent and replicable. What's more, small businesses can generate leads through social media marketing every bit as successfully as global mega-brands. I can say this with such certainty for the simple reason that we're doing exactly this in our own business and on behalf of numerous clients we work with.

Making social media marketing work for your small business

Let me share with you a few things you need to know in order to start successfully generating leads on social media. This should help you think about how social media can start to strengthen your own small business:

- No matter what business you're in, it's likely that people don't buy from you the moment they first find you. They will probably not even share their details with you the first time they come to your website. So the first challenge with social media is to figure out a social media strategy that makes your ideal prospects want to follow your business on social media - and therefore open themselves up to receiving your messages on a regular basis. Winning the right to remain on your prospects' radars is the first step in your social media journey.

Key takeaway: figure out how you can make your social media profiles valuable, insightful or entertaining to your target customers.

- Building lots of fans and followers on social media is a great asset for your company, but the real magic happens when other people start sharing your updates with their contacts. Imagine if your company started to appear in the Facebook feeds and Twitter streams of a million people in your local area or in your target industry. An exciting prospect right?! The key to making this happen is to figure out a strategy for enticing people to share your updates. Maybe that's through relationship-building with key influencers in your market. Maybe it's by running a viral competition. The strategy will be different for each business, but the key is to figure out how you're going to tap into this viral sharing effect in your business and therefore reach a mass audience.

Key takeaway: don't be overly focused on your own follower and fan numbers, but instead look at the number of people your business is reaching on social media.

- Engagement rather than promotion is often where the real business value lies. There's no "one size fits all" when it comes to getting a great return on your investment in social media. However, one of the biggest mistakes I see businesses make is relying on promotion rather than engagement to drive business results. If you're selling something cheap to a mass market audience, it may be that pure promotion campaigns on social media can produce results. But for any business selling higher priced goods or services, the reality is that people are much more likely do what you want if you've engaged with them rather than promoted something to them. A massive mistake businesses make is to take the shortcut of running paid promotions on social media when the harder graft of finding and engaging with prospects would have been more likely to produce results.

Key takeaway: determine whether your business is transactional (people will usually buy from you without talking to anyone) or relations-based (customers typically speak to you before buying) and then formulate a strategy based on promotions or engagement accordingly.

- One final key element of success is figuring out how to convert fans and followers into actual prospects for your business. Having a large and growing audience of prospects is all well and good, but we need some of these people to actually place an order if we're to really be successful. The trick here is to think about what you could offer of value to people that they would want to sign up for and that allows you to flush out the most serious prospects amongst your followers.

eg. if you run an event management business for weddings, you might offer a free consultation for people to have their wedding preparations checked. Those who sign up for the offer clearly have anxiety around the planning of their wedding - and so are amongst the most promising prospects for your business.

eg. if you run a software business, you might offer people a sneak preview of your latest new tool on a live demo. In signing up you may look to collect a few bits of information about each person so that you have a richer prospecting list to follow-up with after the call.

Two things are essential here. Firstly, you need figure out what you can offer that people would want or would be intrigued enough about that they would not want to miss. Secondly you need to be constantly challenging whether that is the offer that converts your audience most effectively. Always be running tests where your current approach is being challenged by an alternative offer, so that you're constantly refining how many leads you can extract from your social media lead funnel.

Key takeaway: don't rely on your audience choosing to find out what your business does or how you could help them; instead entice them to reveal that they are prospects for your business by signing up to something that would only be of interest to a prospect.

How To Get Started?

By now I hopefully have your brain whirring in terms of fathoming out how you can put this all to work in your own business? If you'd like to pick our brains some more about what your business should be doing to leverage social media, we'd be very happy to help. We can provide an outsourced service to build your social media presence and maximise your chances of success; or just schedule a call to brainstorm what your next steps should be. You're welcome to book in a call time below to get started - hope to speak soon either way.

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Tony Restell is the Founder of and helps small businesses to leverage social media. A published author and Cambridge graduate, you’re welcome to reach out to Tony on @tonyrestell