Importance of Embracing Social Media for Small Businesses

Although social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are better known for their personal applications, they also have significant potential as marketing tools. Businesses recognise that many of their current and potential customers use social networking sites and are reaching out to them with social marketing efforts.

Social networking sites are an ideal guerrilla marketing tool because they allow entrepreneurs to market their companies effectively and at little or no cost. Small companies use a variety of social networking tools to market their companies, but three of the most popular are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

People spend nearly 12 billion hours per month on the world’s biggest social network – Facebook. On Facebook, an entrepreneur must create a Welcome page that is designed to create interest in the company’s products or services and that encourages visitors to “like” the business. Businesses can generate likes (formerly Fans) by posting the Facebook URL on in-store signs, business cards, shopping bags, and anything else customers are likely to see. One key to using Facebook successfully as a marketing tool is to keep a company’s page fresh, just like the merchandise displays in a physical store. Adding photographs, announcements of upcoming events, polls and surveys, and games and contests or promoting a cause the company supports are excellent ways to create buzz and keep fans coming back.

To use LinkedIn as a marketing tool, entrepreneurs should create a personal pro- file that focuses on their role as owner of a business, send invitations to people with whom they have connections, join (or form) groups that are of interest to customers, and use An- swers to demonstrate their expertise. They also should create a link to their company’s Web sites, blog, and Twitter feed. Entrepreneurs also can post upcoming events at their businesses and conduct polls among other LinkedIn users.

Twitter users send more than 1 billion tweets per week, and 42 percent of users look to Twitter for information about the products and services that they buy.51 Twitter, a microblogging (no more than 140 characters) service, is ideal for interact- ing with customers or potential customers, promoting daily specials and upcoming events, and driving traffic to a company’s Web site or blog. Whole Foods, the upscale grocery chain, interacts with 1.9 million Twitter followers by responding to customer service requests and links to recipes on its Web site and news stories about natural food. A recent poll reports that 85 percent of customers who posted a negative shopping experi- ence with a company and were subsequently contacted by that company ultimately took an action online that benefited the business.