How can a small business become an international social success? Can even the most mundane brands engage with users and build a following? We caught up with Jason Falls, writer, digital marketing expert and the founder of Social Media Explorer‘s blog, to discuss social media strategies and trends.
To be successful on social media, does it matter what kind of product you’re promoting? Not taking into account the quality, does it matter if it’s mundane (paper towels for example) or flashy (a new gadget)?
The nature of the product is not necessarily relevant. Look at what Charmin does on Twitter and Facebook. They are keeping top-of-mind awareness for the brand by injecting fun and often funny content into the broad, social conversation. Their #tweetfromtheseat hashtag and silly humor make people laugh. If toilet paper can drive conversation and engagement in social, just about anyone can.
Certainly, it helps if your product has some sizzle, some personality and can be positioned in conversation in a fun way. But as soon as we declare one product or service not suited for social, someone will come up with way to make it so.
Should small businesses find their own way of engaging with customers on social media or try to emulate some tried and tested methods of established brands?
Well, there’s no problem copying what works. But you can’t just copy big brands blindly. You have to know your audience and their relationship with you, your competitors, the market in general and so on. Emulating the overall approach though, is smart.
Listen and monitor for conversations, respond to complaints and compliments, formulate content strategies that deliver your brand’s need for awareness and, if possible, drive content that converts customers. If you do the broad best practice approaches, even imitating some brands that do it well, you’re probably starting in a good place. Learn and tweak as you go along and make that strategy yours, though.
With Facebook cutting down on the organic reach of brands, what would you recommend to businesses on a tight budget; is dropping Facebook and focusing on the other networks a solution?
Certainly it can be. You have to fish where the fish are, though, and lots of fish are on Facebook. Organic content can see success on Facebook, but you have to really do a dynamite job of making it stand out. The great thing about sponsored posts and the like on Facebook is that you don’t have to have a big budget to use them.
You can tee up a post and promote it for $10 a day. Pick one post a month, make sure it’s a good one, sponsor it for 5 days and you’re only spending $50 a month on Facebook ads, but probably getting a fair amount of exposure out of it. The art is in the targeting and choosing the right posts to sponsor (hint: make them ones that lead customers to a conversion point), but success on Facebook doesn’t have to be expensive.
What would you suggest to business owners looking to go beyond their local area and reach an international audience on social media?
Certainly social media channels allow you to do this relatively inexpensively. Yes, you’ll need to invest time and maybe resources into creating great content. Yes, you’ll perhaps need to have some time and resources behind translations and the like if you’re going multi-language. Yes, it’s going to take a lot of work to get a small business (or even a large one) funneling customers through social media.
But many of the tools are free or inexpensive and if you’ve got the time and creative energy, it certainly can be done. I’d always recommend mixing a fair amount of engagement type content that doesn’t drive customers to buy or convert with some strong call-to-action posts you can measure against, but by all means, you can grow an international audience on these channels.
Do you see social media changing significantly the next few years, and if so, how?
Certainly, paying to increase reach and exposure is going to have an impact on how brands use social and how customers engage with them on social channels. The more experience and sophistication the social networks offer brands, the better the ad opportunities will be and the better the customers will react. Not all consumers hate ads. They just hate irrelevant ones. With social graphing where the user continually builds a profile of interests and preferences with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more, the networks will offer better targeting and the ads will become more relevant.
Ultimately, these networks will not survive unless they protect the user experience, but also offer brands the ability to reach those consumers. Relevancy will be the key there and all of them are working hard to maintain the balance of a utility-type tool users have to use and a platform that advertisers see success with.
I think the networks will get better at both user experience and delivering advertising to relevant audiences. The best is probably yet to come.