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The Case for Social Media – And How to Make It Simple
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Keeping your business thriving means always searching for new ways to attract customers. In today’s world, that means incorporating social media into your marketing and communications plan. Whether it’s through Facebook, Twitter or your own company blog, the value of social media has grown dramatically in importance over the last couple of years.

A recent Forrester study quantified the economic value of a Facebook fan for brand marketers. While common sense has always supported the notion that a fan will be more likely to consider, buy and refer new customers, the study validated the weight of the impact of fan economics. For example, in some cases being a fan increased the likelihood to buy by as much as 5% – a factor five times higher than store location. This study suggests that Facebook and overall social media engagement have a return on investment that makes the time spent worthwhile for any small business marketer. Consider this:

  • Last year, 95 million Americans used social media to shop, according to the Social Shop Study, indicating a huge opportunity for small businesses.
  • Almost half (49%) of respondents participating in the National Retail Federation’s 2011 Social Commerce Studywere keen on keeping a tab on product updates through social media. The study also found that:
    • 58% of respondents “followed” a retailer proactively through Facebook, Twitter or blog.
    • More than one-third of respondents “followed” online retailers for information on contests and shopping events.
    • 35% of respondents considered themselves likely to purchase directly from Facebook, while 32% are willing to make a purchase directly through Twitter.

Despite the evidence of its effectiveness, many small business owners don’t feel like they have the bandwidth or knowledge to manage a social media marketing campaign. Following a few simple tips can make it easier than you think.

  • Start with your inner circle. Friends and family are your biggest fans! Plus, they will likely share your information with their networks.
  • Prioritize. With social media, it’s easy to feel like you need to have a presence on every social media channel. Focus your efforts on the networks most fitting for you and your business and with the highest concentration of your audience.
  • Content is king, but don’t stress – be yourself. Your business is an extension of you, and your social media sites should be too. Use social media to show prospective customers the real you.
    • Engage – Keep your fans interested by touting specials or Facebook-exclusive offers. Keep posts interesting, humorous and authentic, and your social media fan base is sure to climb.
    • Interact – Create content and tips that solve your customers’ problems. Develop a strategy to continuously involve your audience, and start producing material that keeps people coming back to interact with your brand.
    • Incentivize – Encourage customers to keep in touch by including dynamic elements such as photo-posting contests, flash sales and product updates. Offer deals and incentives for return visits or for sharing your content with their network. This will serve as a powerful tool in driving brand awareness and loyalty.
    • Influence – Develop strategies to “influence the influencers” by continuously engaging your most active fan base. Understand your fans, study their interests and design campaigns with targeted freebies and discounts accordingly. While the “influencer” group is a small one, the impact on those “influenced” is large.

Shopping has always been a social activity, and today’s social media channels provide new and exciting ways for consumers and marketers to share their passions in ways that benefit both. Smart small businesses are seeing significant return on the time they invest in managing social media by staying focused, being true to their brand and connecting with their customers across all their shopping channels.

Disclaimer:  Research and practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for marketing, legal, financial or other advice.  When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws may apply. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.
Janet ZablockHead of Global Small Business, Visa Inc.
Janet directs the development and implementation of the strategic vision for Visa Business products targeted at the SMB segment. Previously, she was Head of Commercial Specialized Sales for Visa Inc. and has also held a variety of other corporate positions at Bank of America and McDonalds Corporation.
www.Visa.com/SmallBusiness | @VisaSmallBiz | More from Janet

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