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 converse with their customers and bring attention to their brands, but 75% of online Americans report that they are more loyal to companies that promote their products on social media.

“If done well, not only will your existing clients engage with you, but potentially their friends will as well,” says Michael Burnham, Digital Sales Manager at MassLive.

And the result of all that social activity? The potential for more revenue.

phone-170x300Find the best fit for your business

There are numerous social media platforms. You should concentrate on the networks that contain an audience of current or potential customers.

Here are a few social networks to consider:

  • Facebook
    It’s the largest social network 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 members 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.

sharing-1024x371Put 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. “Social media reminds your customers of your brand and updates them on what you are doing now,” says Burnham.

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. 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 posts.
  • 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.” 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.

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 may be new for your business, the end goal remains the same: building meaningful customer relationships.