Psst! Want to know a secret…
If you ask most small business owners where they get their new business from, most will say “word of mouth”. In other words, customer recommendations and referrals.
Research has consistently proved that people trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family above all other sources of advertising.
Pre-internet, most word of mouth transpired through physical conversations. Now these conversations take place on a far bigger scale online – specifically on the major social networks.
Facebook and Twitter is where people are quick to share their experiences – good and bad – about products and services. Loyal customers are ready and willing to spread the word about businesses they like.
Therefore, when people considering making a purchase want an opinion or advice – they will often ask their online connections first.
Social Media is the new word of mouth
Small businesses that want to increase their ‘word of mouth’ reputation, but are ignoring social media platforms are missing a huge trick.
We meet many businesses that have quickly got disheartened with social media saying it didn’t work for them. But when we investigate how they were using social media it is easy to see why – they focused on one way sales messages intended to attract new customers.
This is not the right way to approach social media. People use social media to find information and share their ideas and experiences. It is not a ‘quick win’ sales platform. Instead, businesses should look at how they can engage with their ideal customers through being helpful, informative and encouraging sharing.
And the place to start is with your existing customers – make it easy for them to spread the word about your business through liking and sharing.
How to ‘do’ social media marketing
Whilst the idea of ‘sharing’ and ‘helping’ sounds warm and cuddly, small businesses have limited resources and need to focus on the bottom line.
That’s why a strategic, structured approach that understands your ideal customers is essential to social media marketing.
The number of social networks is growing – but this doesn’t mean you need to be everywhere. It’s understanding how your customers are most likely to engage with social media. And focusing your time and efforts on one or two platforms and managing them really well.
You then need a plan that will ensure consistent engagement and content creation on social media. Tools like Hootsuite and Social Oomph can help maximise efficiency to free up time to actually engage and fuel your word of mouth.
Done right, social media marketing is a clever marketing tool for raising awareness, generating new enquiries and increasing customer loyalty.