Posted on Sep 8, 2015

Why is Social Media Important for Small Business?

If you’re like many business owners, everyday conversations often include expressions like “I saw it on Facebook.”  Brands and businesses are constantly asking you to like, share, tweet and follow them – which makes social media seem like a whole lot of noise for one human to handle. You’re not alone if you’re wondering if social media is truly helpful or if it’s full of hype. If you’re asking yourself if it’s worth the investment in time and money, you’re being super savvy about your small business.

Here are some ideas to ponder:

What Is Social Media And How Should You Use It?

Social media allows users to create and share content. It’s the collective of online communications channels dedicated to interaction and collaboration. This means that social media can be used for just about anything today, from posting food images, to letting friends know about new a new job, and even distributing articles (such as this article or others).

The most common social media platforms include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube

Think of social media on these platforms as more of a networking tool than a “broadcasting” tool. Think “conversations” over “selling.”

Let’s look at an example using a fictional gourmet food store. This is the wrong way to use social media:

  • “10% off this weekend”
  • “New Danish blue cheese just arrived in store!”
  • “Open from 8am this Saturday!”

If you’re using social media to broadcast your message like this example, take a deep breathe. You’re not alone. But this doesn’t mean that you should join the majority of other business owners who are doing it this way. The good news is that you’re getting informed on how to improve your social media skills. So here are some better ways to start conversations:

  • Be helpful: “It’s International Watermelon Day! Here’s an amazing watermelon and feta cheese to celebrate the occasion: {link to article on blog}”
  • Be engaging: “What are you cooking for dinner tonight?”
  • Be inspiring: “Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.” – Anthony Bourdain (it’s ok to quote other leaders in your industry – especially foodies like Anthony Bourdain!)

Social media should be used to start conversations that engage the minds and hearts of your customers. Here are 12 reasons that explain why social media is important for the fictional gourmet food store:

  1. Customers Use Social Media
    Surprise, surprise! Customers are active on social media (just like you). When you get your message right, social media can turn into a powerful marketing tool.
  1. Stand Out From The Competition
    Other gourmet food stores in the local area don’t know how to use social media the right way (but now you do!) It’s a great way to distribute unique, engaging content to your customers.
  1. Improve Conversation
    Rather than the gourmet store talking at their customers to tell them what to buy, they can now use social media to talk with their customers. The difference makes a huge impact on customer perception. It’s the difference between walking into the store and having the owner bombard you with: “Buy this!” vs. the owner simply asking you “What are you cooking for dinner tonight?” The first approach shuts down conversation immediately (and makes the customer feel awkward) whereas the latter approach opens up the conversation (and can make the customer feel more understood).
  1. Learn More About Customers
    If the store uses the second approach in the above example, the store can then use those conversations to learn more about their customers’ likes and dislikes. Asking one simple question to learn more about your customers can improve your overall business strategy.
  1. Reach New Customers and Increase Brand Awareness
    It gets better: the store can even use the information to create posts that get shared, garnering attention from new food lovers. Whether it’s a new recipe or a gorgeous image of a recent meal, your customers will want to share what they discovered. The marketing term for this is earned media. This increases your brand awareness and builds trust.
  1. Improve Brand Loyalty
    Consumers have many choices today, including different options for buying gourmet food products. Trust and brand loyalty is everything. When the gourmet food store appears on a customer’s Facebook timeline or Twitter feed, trust is built. This consequently improves brand loyalty.
  1. Improve Customer Service
    The store can also use social media as a customer service tool, encouraging customers to make contact via social media, and responding to those queries quickly. The immediacy of social media can mean the difference between a customer buying from you or from your competitor.
  1. Nurture Brand Advocates
    Social media gives the store an opportunity to regularly engage with their best customers. Those customers will naturally increase the reach of the store, and will deliver a marketing message (called earned media). Earned media is always more credible than advertisements (paid media).
  1. Enhance Credentials as an Expert
    The store can also use its social media posts to establish itself as the leading expert on gourmet food. This means that more customers will want to be associated with your business. When you make a name and become the best at something (even if it’s a gourmet food store) people will want to buy from you. And when more people buy from you, you become a leader.
  1. Get Website Traffic
    Social media can drive traffic to your website. This means that if you also sell products on your website (in addition to your store) you’ll have more of an opportunity to be seen by happy customers. Social media can make getting website traffic easy.
  1. Improve Search Engine Rankings
    When your content generates engagement on social media and builds up a following, you will also likely see an improvement in its rankings in search results. This is because Google and other search engines look at social media shares as one of the factors for deciding where to position a website in search.
  1. Increase Conversions
    Used strategically and rarely, the gourmet food store can include posts with a clear call to action. When its social media posts are positively received, the store can increase conversations and win new customers.

Using social media, our fictitious gourmet food store can build their brand, find new customers, and engage with them – ultimately increasing sales. Now you can do the same and get more organic reach using social media for your business (no organic food required).