Social media is great for staying in touch with family when they move across country, friends when they leave for college, or start their new journey in life with their loved one, and just sharing memories via pictures or videos, but what other tools does social media hold? With the majority of people on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pintrest, LinkedIn, and more, what better place for a small business to do market research. In a matter of a couple hours, a company can create a page on Facebook or a similar social media site that describes what they do, what they sell, and gain an instant following. Of course the page wont have 10,000 "Likes" over night, but its a start. With this page they can create polls to find out what the consumers want in order to fit the needs of the current day, and future markets. Start up companies THRIVE on these sites because of many reasons, and to be honest, its quite simple.
1. They are free
2. They connect to the majority of consumers
3. They have the ability to spread like wild fire
4. Ability to run promotions and give a ways (people like free stuff)
5. Share new products or services with pictures and videos
6. Can answer any consumer questions directly with comments
7. And did I mention it was 100% FREE
So how exactly do small businesses use these free tools? I am going to use a local example from Plymouth, New Hampshire. A company called Poleish Sports founded by Bryan Biederman. The company makes the famous game of Poleish Horse Shoes, basically a game played with two ski poles, two beer bottles, and a Frisbee. The company started literally in his back yard as a college game that him and his friends played daily, and he thought "now wait a second, why don't they make these", and so production started in his garage. Being so close to Plymouth State University, and having a family general store in downtown, he was able to capture the audience of the locals, but how could he get out of Plymouth? The answer was simple: Facebook. He made a page describing what it was about and put up pictures and shared it with every friend and family member he had on Facebook, asking and begging them to share it. As the likes began to climb, he got more recognition. As a business owner, you post your page to various different other pages, "PSU SPRING FLING" or "Country Fest 2012" and so on... more people see it, more people "like", and more people "share". Social media sites wont help products like those 2:00am infomercials. They WILL NOT make a bad product popular and sell, what they WILL do, is make a great product get recognized, which is all it needs, the product or service will do the rest.
As time went on, Poleish sports became more and more popular and people around the country started finding out about this trend, and wanted more. Using Facebook, Bryan could reach out to these people as to where to buy it locally, or where they could order it from online. He would upload instructional videos, pictures from trade shows, and others could post their fun pictures of the product in use. All this creates a sort of BUZZ around the product, and people like Buzz. If everyone else has this game at the cookout, the tailgate, or the beach, you want it too.
Don't forget to check out this game by visiting his Facebook page, or his website!
In order to get customer appreciation, small business owners can create raffles or give a ways on Facebook. But the biggest thing in my eyes is customer interaction. A customer can comment on different aspects of the page, and the owner can simply write back, answering questions, giving information, or asking questions of their own. It makes it so the customer gets what they want, and the owner can learn what is needed. In the start up of a small company, these social media sites are crucial because they act as a basic website, that is free, easy to use, and packs a punch.
The other side of social media however is advertisement, and I'm not talking about small scale. Once a company is large enough, they can afford Ad Space on Facebook. Some companies say its great and that increases sales by X%. But I hate it, first off, when I'm a site like Facebook or Youtube, I'm not there to watch advertisements, I understand why the sites do it, they need to make their money some how. But from the business side, I think its terrible. Okay Coke or Verizon, if you want to have an add sure, go ahead, it wont break your bank. But for a semi-small Company STOP first of all, think about how much money your about to spend, and what it will actually get you. As a user of these sites, I know first hand that any add that I visit is surly and accident, and will be closed as soon as possible. So when these sites say they will get you X amount of clicks, assume 5% of those are on purpose. When I look at small businesses, I like the fact that they don't dump big money into big advertisements because it means their product works without it. So at the end of the day. Unless your budget is 25 million a year for advertising. STAY AWAY. Bad idea, and frankly, a bad rep with your customers, don't look thirsty, look smart.
The following graphic is from Intuit Websites, A great site with lots of information, I will be featuring one of their products a little later on in the month so stay tuned!!
via: Intuit Websites\
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