It cannot be underestimated how important the utilisation of Social Media can be for a small business, or indeed, any business.
By communication directly with the public, you gain valuable insight into their needs, their wants and their motivations. This in turn can create very real relationships and communities, further enhancing a business reputation and creating brand recognition that can be crucial for long term survival.
Yet it doesn’t take thousands of pounds and hundreds of man-hours. It can be done using relatively simple programmes and existing social platforms.
Every little helps
For example, a UK based ecommerce company, Appliances Online (AOL), have embraced Social Media in a way that has really taken off over the last 18 months. From September 2010, AOL started to respond to people on Twitter. This was done originally with an automatic program called Radian 6, which would target any person who mentioned the company in a tweet. AOL would then communicate with that person, ranging from answering an enquiry to making conversation about lunch. It was never used to push sales; the company was just genuinely trying to be nice. This is something that boded well for AOL’s social media future.
Over the following 18 months, by speaking to customers and non-customers alike through social media, AOL has gathered over 7000 followers on Twitter. Likewise, over the same timeframe, Facebook has proven to be an even greater success. Through the implementation of competitions, live video stream giveaways and maintaining a friend community, AOL has over 225,000 fans of its page with regular monthly viewings upwards of 100,000 on their YouTube channel. This trinity of social media proves that you don’t have to sell products to sell products.
In fact, AOL often allows bloggers to post video reviews of their appliances. The bloggers then get to keep the appliance for free. The term ‘speculate to accumulate’ can definitely be applied here. By taking a hit on products, they reap the benefits of trust and social/brand recognition. It’s something to think about.
AOL states that their goal was to let the public talk about what they want to talk about, instead of the company directing the conversation towards business. It seems to work too, with AOL’s profits steadily rising week on week.
So where can you take social media from here. AOL has already begun to implement an integration of Facebook and their website. By linking the two, potential customers will be able to see which of their friends have used and like the company, which serves to increase trust, and therefore conversion.
Small businesses need to have an edge to make it in the competitive markets, and social media can be an very easy, very effective method to gain that edge.