Done right, social media can level the playing field in business—it’s the equalizer between small and large companies. Even solo entrepreneurial businesses can create a global presence using the right social media. With a strong website, optimized with the right words and phrases, a small business can have a big presence.
Another benefit to social media is the cost. Actually, it’s the lack of cost. With social media, you don’t need to pay for newspaper or billboard ads. You don’t need to hire a media company to buy airtime on radio and TV. You just need to exploit the free or low-cost opportunities that social media provides. And, of course, you have to create content and information to post that will keep your customers engaged.
Here are seven powerful ways that any company can use social media to engage with its customers:
1. Social service. If customer service is important to you—and it should be—then have a designated person (or a team, depending on the size of your company) manage your customer service strategy on social media. Monitor the key social channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Yelp. You’re not only looking to react to customers who post negative reviews or complaints; you're also looking to engage and thank the customers who post positive comments.
2. Content marketing. One of the strongest social media strategies is content marketing. When you post information about your products or industry, you'll become a valuable resource for your customers. The key is to not be self-promoting. Give value, and you'll develop a loyal following that looks forward to your insights. Post blogs and articles, and create white papers that share information on the latest and greatest happenings, not just regarding you and your company, but in your industry.
3. Repurposed content. One of the quickest ways to create new content is to repurpose it from your blogs and articles. For instance, extract a sentence or two from an article or blog post, and turn it into a tweet. Or take short, meaningful quotes from your articles and “pin” them on Pinterest. Maybe you could create a slideshow of your articles with cool graphics purchased from royalty-free photography sites such as Bigstock Photo and post them on SlideShare. There are many places you can use repurposed content.
4. Article consolidation. An offshoot of content marketing is article consolidation. Create daily Google Alerts for articles, blog posts and news that's related to your products and industry. Read through the alerts for information that your customers may be interested in. Share these articles on Twitter, Facebook and other social channels. Once a week, take the top five or 10 articles that you’ve read and create a blog post. For example, on Mondays, I post an article titled Top Five Customer Service Articles of the Week (and I include the date). My clients agree that this is one of their most helpful resources.
5. Guest posts. Are you confident enough to feature your competitors on your website? If so, consider publishing a semi-regular guest post from one of your friendly competitors or colleagues in your industry. This shows that you're really interested in sharing relevant content, even if it's not yours, with your community.
6. LinkedIn. Participate on LinkedIn and not just with a personal or company profile. Get involved with LinkedIn groups—it’s a powerful way to engage with your community. LinkedIn now also allows you to publish your articles and blog posts on the site so you can expand your reach.
7. YouTube. I’ve saved the best for last: Have a YouTube strategy. Next to Google, the search engine used the most is YouTube, and posting valuable and informative videos is a powerful way to reach customers and prospects. Again, I’ll emphasize that you should be delivering value and your videos shouldn’t be promotional (though it's fine to include a promotional line or two at the end of the video or in the description underneath the video). Whatever promotion you do should be subtle.
If you're not sure how to get started on YouTube, here are a few tips that will help:
- You don’t have to have a professional studio. Believe it or not, an iPhone's camera is more than adequate for a YouTube video.
- You must have high-quality audio, so buy an inexpensive microphone to plug into your camera or iPhone. People will forgive you for not having top-notch video, but they'll tune you out in a second if the audio is poor.
- Creating content for your videos is easy. Just review your articles and blog posts, and repurpose their content for your videos.
- If you want to get fancy, install an inexpensive software program to edit your videos. If you have a Mac, you already have the software on your computer.
With almost all of the above strategies, it's important to remember that social media is not a one-way street. It’s about connecting and creating relationships. You’re not posting content and moving on—you need to encourage engagement and have conversations with your community of customers. That means interacting with your followers, and welcoming and reacting to comments.
Social media is a gift. Embrace it, and you'll reap the rewards it can bring you.
Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE, is a customer service expert, hall-of-fame speaker and bestselling author. He works with organizations to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He's also the creator of The Customer Focus, a customer service training program that helps organizations develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset. For more information, visit www.Hyken.com
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