With only 12% of SMBs believing that they are getting the most out of their use of social media, I thought it useful to present some best practices and alternative social websites during this blog. While this blog considers service providers (ILECS, RLECs and Wireless) and channel partners (VARs, Agents) as the primary audiences, I believe it is our job to communicate to our SMB customers how they can better leverage technology and grow their businesses. After all, ANPI and you guys are the trusted advisors.
Best practices for social media begins with reputation management and that means setting up an account with Google to take advantage of Google Alerts. Google Alerts provides email updates of web references to your company, products, personnel or even competitors. Getting this information delivered either immediately or periodically (daily, weekly) provides you the opportunity to respond to customer complaints or problems quickly. In addition to Google Alerts, there are some websites consumers use to rate businesses such as Angie’s List, Ripoff Report, and ResellerRatings that SMBs should monitor for both positive and negative reviews. Always respond to negative reviews and do your best to satisfy those customers. Remember one key element of social media is to engage your customers and improve the number of prospects.
Consider that a use of social media is to build an interactive online community. The most commonly used sites are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. However, Google+ ranked the highest in helpfulness with nearly 50% of SMBs identifying it as such. StumbleUpon ranked right between LinkedIn and YouTube in helpfulness. This is according to an Industry Study of SMBs and Social Media by Vocus. However, it did rank low in terms of the number of SMBs using the service. Other notable sites to build community are Pinterest, and Foursquare. Although, it will require a time commitment and theme, the fourth most used social media tool is a blog.
Whatever social media services are chosen, a decision must be made of whether it is best to go to a “home” page or a “landing” page that will lead the prospect to a desired product or service. If the owner does not have time to review their social media activity then they should assign someone in the business or hire a consultant to do it part time. Analyzing and measuring the success of using social media is critical. If the business does not see an increase in traffic, reduction in customer complaints, more prospective customers, greater community awareness, etc., then the social media strategy needs to change.
Many SMBs wonder about the cost of using social media tools and search engine marketing but the cost can be mitigated by transferring traditional media spending to interactive media spending. In fact as SMBs find success they begin to reduce their spending for direct mail (17% reducing) and print ads (53% reducing).
According to the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, the top benefits of social media marketing are generating more business exposure (reported by 85%) increasing traffic (69%) and providing marketplace, insight (65%).
The message you should deliver to your SMB customers base is “You don’t have to be marketing guru to excel at social media, you just need to develop a plan, execute, evaluate regularly and revise the plan if objectives are not being met.”