How Social Media Impacts Your Small Business

As a business owner, you may have noticed that businesses are now doing more to market themselves online than relying solely on their websites.  They have added the five major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn, to establish their own distinct company profiles.   Their ultimate goal is no different than those for their website or any other marketing effort: to increase the number of prospects and buying customers.

The way they are acquiring those prospects is different from other marketing methods, like search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click advertising, video marketing or email marketing.  Social media requires a less direct, yet more personal online connection established between a business and its prospects.  Companies are using social media to draw these prospects and buyers by getting them interested in content that they share on the networks.

Marketers are calling this “drawing” process, engagement.  When a company uses the social networks to engage users, they typically aren’t bombarding them with marketing messages.  As a matter of fact, companies that are successful using social media, use few if any messages that would be considered to be direct advertising.  Companies skillful with social media are sharing content that visitors will find interesting, funny, worrisome and sometimes even vexing in some limited cases.

To share this kind of content in most advertising and promotional contexts would be unacceptable.  The standard rule in a advertising directly is that you would want to keep the customer upbeat, positive and in a mood to say yes to your offer.  However, the main point of social media is to start some kind of dialogue with a reader.  So in effect, companies use social media often to share the kind of content that motivates people to start a dialogue: 1) with the friends and social media connections and 2) with the company sharing the content.

Motivating prospects and buyers to share content with their friends and associates isn’t necessarily new.  Companies attempted to do this in other ways before there were social media sites.  However, carrying on conversation with those prospects and buyers and having that conversation in public is new.   In other words, the dialogue that you carry on on your social media platforms is viewable by all of your other prospects and customers.  Of course, sometimes those prospects will join the dialogue. However, in most cases they won’t.

Of course what this means for companies is that they will need to be ruthlessly honest about their business practices.  It won’t be possible to tell one customer one thing and then wait a week to tell another one something different.  Customers no longer have dialogue about a business in private.  They have it in full view of the online universe, especially those who watch and not participate…yet make buying decisions based on what they read.

In addition to being honest, businesses will need to be more transparent about what they’re doing.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that they’ll need to give away their secrets.  What it does mean is that the more that they’re willing to dialogue with customers about what they’re doing and how they make decisions, the more they’ll be able to keep the attention of their prospects.    Keeping the prospects’ attention is the key to them moving them from engagement into traditional marketing funnels including email and direct mail.   This two-step process is becoming the expectation of people who “hang out” on social media sites. Of course, smart businesses will adjust a portion of their strategy to these expectations.