When you think about social media, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram probably come to mind. If your business's services are located mostly online—for example, if you are a freelance writer, artist, or web designer—these worldwide social media networks can be the most powerful and useful for your business. They connect users based on interest, rather than location.
But if your business is more locally based, offering services like house cleaning, fitness, or a retail location, you may find that using local social networks is what your business needs in order to succeed.
Why focus locally?
When the internet has connected us to customers all around the globe, why should we focus our customer profile on those in our towns and our neighborhoods?
Some businesses offer services that don't transfer across the Internet. A house can't be cleaned through a WiFi connection, so a house cleaning business having fans across state lines isn't particularly helpful. Why spend valuable advertising dollars on social media platforms that aren't getting you what you need?
Other businesses offer retail products that can be ordered through the internet and shipped to customers anywhere, but businesses may offer special deals to customers who are locally based. Choosing to use local social media can prevent customers that are not eligible for those deals from being frustrated by what they can't get.
Finally, some customers still choose not to participate in broader social media forums like Facebook and Twitter, but are more comfortable on services like NextDoor, which have a tighter focus, and a greater perception of privacy.
How do you choose the right social media network?
Ultimately, as a business, you need to go where your customers are. It doesn't matter how many people use Twitter every day, if your customers aren't there, it won't drive your business.
There are two ways to make this happen.
- Ask your customers which social networks they use
If your business is locally focused, make it a checkmark on their work order or reception forms. Do they use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Front Porch Forum, NextDoor? You can consider which networks your customers already use, and then create a presence on those networks.
- Bring your customers to your preferred social networks with promotions and deals
If you want customers to join your favorite social network, you'll need to incentivize their change in behavior. Just saying that “this is a cool new network” won't be enough. You'll need to offer them exclusive deals, benefits, bonuses, and or rewards for joining you on your new network.
Since 2002 I’ve been involved in the moving and storage industry and always paid attention to what major companies do, how they do and how they run on a daily basis. One particular company, Extra Space Storage, always comes to mind when thinking about customer engagement. The company operates over 1100 facilities nationwide, so it’s not an easy task to engage customers in all channels. Instead of simply posting a discount, they create a content that educates and helps their customers to make a right selection, which also helps to promote their discount.
Use Social Media as a Customer Service Platform
Yes, you read that right. Good customer service can be a powerful marketing tool. More consumers use social media to complain about poor customer service or a product with a hashtag or the company’s name. Consumers now expect businesses to provide customer service through social media channels. It is an opportunity to address their issues and show the world that you care about your customers.
Communicate appropriately for the social media you're using
One truth that great marketers know is that communication is different on every social media platform. Some of this is obvious—Twitter's 140 character limit is a pretty obvious difference—but some of it is more subtle. For example, some businesses don't seem to realize that if you use more than two hashtags in a tweet, most users will automatically assume that you're spamming them.
If you're investigating a social media site you haven't used before, spend some time as a user before you try to create your own forums, posts, or newsletters. Get a sense of how users communicate on the platform. Look for things like:
- How formal is language?
- Are there slang terms you're unfamiliar with?
- How and when are specific users tagged?
- If there are agree/disagree/awesome buttons, is there community agreement on when these are used, and when they aren't?
Consider hiring someone as a consultant who is already familiar with the ins and outs of the social network; the expense might help you prevent embarrassing mishaps.
Track the investment you're making
Whether it's time or business funds, it's important to be sure that any investment your business makes is worthwhile. Whenever you make a change in your business, whether it's a new social media account, a new advertising strategy, or a new product line, you track what you're putting into the product and what you're getting out of it, to determine if it's worthwhile.
Like every other business decision you make, deciding which social media networks you should participate in requires careful attention to detail. Survey all your options, and invest your time and attention where it's most appropriate.
Which social media network has brought the most positive attention to your business?