The 2010 Business Monitor United States report, commissionedby UPS, shows that when it comes to small- and medium-sized businesses, socialmedia is still a missed opportunity.
A mere 24% of respondents said they’vereceived sales leads from social media, with just one percent citing it as afactor for business growth.
“The data would appear to indicate that in spite of all thepositive press that social media gets and all the use cases we’ve seen emergeover the past few years, small business owners are taking social media forgranted,” wrote Mashable’s Jennifer Van Grove, commenting on the results. “Whendone right, social media can be a valuable source for customer acquisition,retention and satisfaction.”
Van Grove cites the following benefits of using socialmedia:
Information is there for the taking
Ignoring, avoiding or just not looking at what people are sharing online aboutyour small business or your competitors is just plain lazy.
Now more than ever people turn to Facebook, Twitter,YouTube, Foursquare, Yelp and a slew of other sites to share information and makeit publicly available. As such, there’s a wealth of information that existingcustomers, future fans and online detractors are putting into the publicdomain, and there are a plethora of tools to make it easy for you to followalong.
The customer that tweets about a poor experience, the guythat leaves a tip about a venue on Foursquare, or the woman that tweets aboutbeing overwhelmed by an event she’s planning, are all real humans sharing realbits of information that if ignored could translate into missed opportunities.
As a small businesses owner, it’s your responsibility to usethese bits of public information to build relationships, improve customerservice and enhance your products.
Finding the right way to use social media can be daunting, especially whenthere are so many examples of big brands pushing the limits of creativity andpossibility when it comes to their Facebook, Twitter and Foursquareinitiatives. Often times the big guys forget that it’s the simplest of gesturesthat can have the greatest impact. But simple works.
On the simple side of things, just take the time toacknowledge customers that mention you. Did someone tweet about dining at yourrestaurant? Did they check in at your venue? Did they share a story about yoursmall business on Facebook? These actions that take place in the public domainare all opportunities to connect with a current or potential customer and makethem feel special.
Responding is easy – a simple “thanks for stopping by,” or“how can we make your next visit better?” tweet can go a long way and even makesomeone’s day. Yet, it’s something most companies take for granted. People liketo be recognised, but often times they’re never presented with an opportunityto associate restaurants, stores and other venues with the people behind him.
You can create that opportunity by recognising their patronage, which in turnshould help ensure that they return for a future visit.
Another simple thing you can do is post signage – on yourwebsite and in your store – to indicate that you’re social media-friendly.
Your size works in your favour
As a small business, your size is your friend in social media channels. Useyour small size as an advantage and respond to each and every person thatmentions you. Since you’re working with a smaller customer base, you can alsobuild customer Twitter Lists to separate different categories of customers intogroups, which should help you offer more personalised customer service –something the big businesses don’t have the time or resources to support.
Here’s an easy example: Who are your most frequentcustomers? Make a Twitter List called “Regulars,” and add your regulars onTwitter to it.
In doing so, you’re associating patronage with prestige.Your efforts could even inspire semi-regular customers to frequent yourbusiness more often just so they too can get added to the list.
New Zealand’s own social media guru, Debbie Mayo-Smith, hassome more insights into social media use in the first issue of Start-Up, outJune 14th.