Despite the overwhelming move toward social marketing and social businesses, there are still many small businesses that fail to understand the importance of social media, and even refuse to use it as part of their marketing strategy. Plenty of business owners continue to treat social media as if it were a thing just for kids, or at best a waste of time. Perhaps the truth behind those attitudes is really just that they are overwhelmed by the idea of starting a social media presence. But really, the reason why business owners decide to ignore social media is irrelevant. The fact that they choose to avoid it means that they are doing nothing but hurting themselves.
More traditional methods of marketing still have their place in the marketing mix, like television and radio ads, print ads, and even pay per click ads. However, what customers and clients are looking for in every business, big or small, is a strong online presence. They want to see the type of content a business shares on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. They want to see how well a business interacts with others. In some cases, they want to see how influential a business owner is within their niche (depending on the niche, of course – this is less of a concern for local businesses).
Building Reputation Through Social
Why do potential clients and customers care about these things? Because that is how trust is built today. If someone notices that a company has a warm online presence, and a great reputation, that individual will be a lot more inclined to do business with that company, over one that only uses PPC ads or traditional methods of marketing.
I will provide a short case study to illustrate this. A local Japanese restaurant invested in print ads, as well as online PPC ads. They did see a moderate ROI, but not as much as they had hoped. The owner of the restaurant wanted to find a way to drive in more business, and sought advice from a marketing consultant. The consultant strongly suggested that the restaurant incorporate social media into its marketing plan. The restaurant owner listened, and hired a social media manager.
Once the platforms were set up and ready to go for the restaurant, interactive content was then sent out on a daily basis. Local fans and followers were attracted by the top-shelf content that the restaurant shared. Whenever a fan commented on a post, the owner always made sure to write a public reply. In a very short time, the Japanese restaurant had tripled its sales and developed a great online reputation.
Handling Social Complaints
Negative comments did pop up occasionally, but the restaurant owner immediately replied in a professional and helpful manner. He even offered to give free appetizers. Most social media users will not be turned off if they see an occasional negative comment – what they care about is how these comments are handled. That is a big part of establishing trust between potential customers or clients and the business.
Print, radio, television and PPC ads will not create the online presence that a business needs in this day and age. Social media is that crucial piece to the marketing puzzle, providing a place to build reputation, branding and interaction. If businesses continue to neglect social media in 2015 and beyond, they’re choosing to leave a lot of money on the table for their competitors.