For the next two installments of Go Big or Go Home (our competition series), we are going to tackle social media tactics to compete in the social sphere. The great thing about social media is that it gives small businesses the unique opportunity to compete with larger businesses.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about who you know in social media, but rather (and more refreshingly) what you know. Businesses of all sizes can figure out ways in which to do all of these things, though some may require more budget.
1. Do your homework. What do you offer that your competitors do not? The larger corporations do not automatically create a larger social buzz. Some things to study: competition’s pricing, perennial offers or sales and messaging. Keeping tabs on the competition is an easy way to see what is working for them and what is not. If you notice, for instance, that they have a lot of success with posts with photos, you can try this tactic too.
2. Get creative. This seems like a no-brainer, but to differentiate yourself in social media, you have to get creative with grabbing your audience’s attention. For example, if your customer service is a point of pride in your business, offer customer reviews or a customer appreciation program of some sort. Offer rewards to those who review your customer service on social media (even small discounts make them feel appreciated). If you are competing with a larger (chain) retailer, you can also find ways to make people feel good about shopping with you. Does your business donate to charities? Use eco-friendly packaging? Support a grassroots movement? All of these things make a difference to the consumer and they are more likely to shop with you (even if your prices are slightly higher) if they feel like they are helping a bigger cause.
3. Set goals. Having a data-driven strategy in place is imperative in order to achieve the goals you want. Don’t stay small (think: “let’s increase likes by 40%”); go big (think: “I want 1/4 of my online sales to be driven from social media channels”). For many businesses, that is not an insane goal to set. And perhaps you should not be doing business with those who say it is.
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4. Test + optimize. Every size business should do some level of this. Therefore, testing and optimization are key. Using free social media tools is a great start. Appending tracking code to social messaging and tracking user paths and conversions with advanced social tools is even better. Reporting should be in-depth enough to optimize social messaging to capitalize on trends and insights seen.
5. Create unique experiences for every platform. This is a great way to ensure that your audience wants to connect with you on every platform. You can create different facets of your brand on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. and design each one to satisfy different aspects of your business. Let’s say, for instance, that you’re a major car dealer. Pinterest is where you pin photos of awesome cars, Twitter is where you offer most of your deals, Facebook is where you answer customer service and car questions and YouTube is where to post videos of races and discussions about car technologies. That is just a quick list of things you could do, but it gives you an idea of how to expand each platform and make it unique from the rest. If you simply copy to Twitter what you post to Facebook, why would anyone want to follow both?
6. Integrate with your offline advertising. Traditional ads on TV and magazines should incorporate social media (hashtags that appear during the commercial, bonuses for liking the brand on Facebook, and at the very least a URL for people to find you online), but social media should also be an extension of your traditional advertising. Take Old Spice for example. After having wild success with Isaiah Mustafa (“The Old Spice Guy”) as a spokesperson, they took to YouTube to answer consumer questions, which garnered huge engagement. Social media is also a great way to test ideas for advertising before paying the big bucks for major TV network airtime. Why not try out an idea as a social media campaign and see what audience feedback you receive? Social research in the form of social listening gives you the ability to be a fly on the wall in the homes of your social consumers, so it’s a great way to see how they feel about new campaign initiatives.