How social media marketing strengthens relationships with customers

Small business owners understand that building relationships with customers is the key to success. And when it comes to digital marketing, social media offers a way to grow those relationships online. Not only do a majority of Fortune 500 companies use platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to bring attention to their brands1, but 75% of online Americans report that they are more loyal to companies that promote their products on social media.2

A social media presence can boost your business in several ways, including introducing your product or service to new customers, keeping you top-of-mind for existing ones and building loyalty to your company. And the result of all that social activity? The potential for more revenue.

Finding the best fit for your business
While there are numerous social media platforms, you should concentrate on the networks that are best suited to your brand. “When it comes to social media, companies really need to be where their customers are and where their contributions are welcome,” says Reggie Marable, executive vice president of sales at Nola Media Group. “Each environment has its own strengths and slightly different expectations for how business should participate.”

Here are a few social networks to consider:

  • Facebook 
    It’s the largest social network, and the place where people can stay updated on what’s happening with their friends and favorite businesses. Facebook helps you consistently connect with your customers, whether by promoting new products or simply having fun with a photo contest.
  • Twitter
    This fast-paced social media site uses short messages to entertain or educate followers. You can exponentially expand your market reach when one tweet gets retweeted by dozens or even hundreds of people to their own Twitter followers.
  • Instagram
    This photo-sharing smartphone app makes the most sense for businesses selling products with a strong visual appeal, such as jewelry or fashion.
  • LinkedIn
    This business-oriented network’s 300 million members3 use it to share their career activities, monitor industry news and pursue job opportunities. B2B marketers can benefit from a LinkedIn profile that lets them connect with decision makers at target client firms.

How to put social media to work
Once you’ve set up your company account(s), spend a few weeks observing how people interact on those networks. You’ll get a better sense of how the platform works, which posts garner attention, and which ones fall flat. Then, start posting yourself.

Here are some tips for making the most of your new social media presence:

  • Look for opportunities to start conversations
    If you run a restaurant, you might use Twitter to advertise daily specials. A florist could showcase its best arrangements on Instagram. The owners of a running store might use Facebook to ask people about their favorite running routes, or invite them to post pictures from local races.
  • Find ways to encourage interaction
    Asking questions or hosting contests can be a great way to create a dialog with potential and current customers. For example, Medtronic Diabetes, a maker of insulin pumps, launched a Facebook campaign asking customers to share photos of themselves living with diabetes, and later transformed those pictures into a successful advertising campaign.4 Including a visual component is a great way to encourage people to share your content. One study revealed that Facebook posts that include a video are shared twice as much as non-video posts5.
  • But don’t be brazenly promotional
    Social networks aren’t keen on companies that blatantly ask for likes or shares of their posts. For example, Facebook announced last year that it will de-emphasize content in its news feeds from publishers posting so-called “like-bait.”6 Instead of asking for likes and shares, focus on creating content that speaks to your audience so they’re inspired to take action on their own.

“No matter which environment you decide to operate in, make sure to set yourself up to convert your customers into referral sources,” says Marable. If you find it hard to strike the right tone, consider hiring a consultant or social media marketing team to help navigate this new world. But while the online format is new, the goal remains the same: building meaningful customer relationships.

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