The 2010 Business Monitor United States report, commissioned
by UPS, shows that when it comes to small- and medium-sized businesses, social
media is still a missed opportunity.
A mere 24% of respondents said they’ve
received sales leads from social media, with just one percent citing it as a
factor for business growth.
“The data would appear to indicate that in spite of all the
positive press that social media gets and all the use cases we’ve seen emerge
over the past few years, small business owners are taking social media for
granted,” wrote Mashable’s Jennifer Van Grove, commenting on the results. “When
done right, social media can be a valuable source for customer acquisition,
retention and satisfaction.”
Van Grove cites the following benefits of using social
Information is there for the taking
Ignoring, avoiding or just not looking at what people are sharing online about
your 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 make
it publicly available. As such, there’s a wealth of information that existing
customers, future fans and online detractors are putting into the public
domain, and there are a plethora of tools to make it easy for you to follow
The customer that tweets about a poor experience, the guy
that leaves a tip about a venue on Foursquare, or the woman that tweets about
being overwhelmed by an event she’s planning, are all real humans sharing real
bits of information that if ignored could translate into missed opportunities.
As a small businesses owner, it’s your responsibility to use
these bits of public information to build relationships, improve customer
service and enhance your products.
Finding the right way to use social media can be daunting, especially when
there are so many examples of big brands pushing the limits of creativity and
possibility when it comes to their Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare
initiatives. Often times the big guys forget that it’s the simplest of gestures
that can have the greatest impact. But simple works.
On the simple side of things, just take the time to
acknowledge customers that mention you. Did someone tweet about dining at your
restaurant? Did they check in at your venue? Did they share a story about your
small business on Facebook? These actions that take place in the public domain
are all opportunities to connect with a current or potential customer and make
them 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 make
someone’s day. Yet, it’s something most companies take for granted. People like
to be recognised, but often times they’re never presented with an opportunity
to associate restaurants, stores and other venues with the people behind him.
You can create that opportunity by recognising their patronage, which in turn
should help ensure that they return for a future visit.
Another simple thing you can do is post signage – on your
website 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. Use
your small size as an advantage and respond to each and every person that
mentions you. Since you’re working with a smaller customer base, you can also
build customer Twitter Lists to separate different categories of customers into
groups, 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 frequent
customers? Make a Twitter List called “Regulars,” and add your regulars on
Twitter to it.
In doing so, you’re associating patronage with prestige.
Your efforts could even inspire semi-regular customers to frequent your
business more often just so they too can get added to the list.
New Zealand’s own social media guru, Debbie Mayo-Smith, has
some more insights into social media use in the first issue of Start-Up, out