Are you among the many small business owners who are using Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but don’t have a social media strategy? Are you wondering what to post and how to reach your customers?

You’re not alone.

A survey released in June 2014 from Endurance International Group found that while although 90% of respondents had a social media presence, 71% acknowledged they didn’t have a plan, and were interested in learning more about increasing social media followers, sharing promotional ideas, and sharing relevant content with their customers.

There’s a big difference between simply having a business presence on social media, and strategically using social networks to engage customers and grow your business. When used correctly, social media can be a powerful marketing tool. Here are examples of how a few small businesses are successfully maximizing their online presence:

1. Demonstrate How Simple It Is to Use Your Product

Dr. Bob Wegstaff, who invented the Orabrush tongue cleaner, spent eight years trying to get his product on the market. He wasn’t successful until a student marketing research group at Brigham Young University in Utah suggested posting a Youtube video introducing the product and offering the opportunity to purchase it online. The quirky commercial explained how Orabrush combats bad breath by eliminating bacteria found on the tongue. The video went viral, getting 18 million views, and Orabrush launched a Bad Breath Channel on Youtube with regular webisodes that have attracted over 40 million viewers.

2. Showcase Your Merchandise

Lynette Damir, founder of SwaddleDesigns, a Seattle-based company that makes wearable baby blankets and other infant accessories, uses Pinterest to introduce her newest product styles and color themes. “The great thing about Pinterest is that it allows you to post photos on both Pinterest and Twitter at the same time making it a very efficient social media activity,” Damir says. “It also allows viewers to click on a product image they like, and be taken directly to our website to purchase the product.”

3. Engage and Empower Customers

Ever feel like social media is impersonal? Valerie Orsoni, a health and wellness expert, and founder of LeBootCamp, solves this by personally responding to social media questions on health and weight loss topics. Orsoni has found that when she answers questions in her LeBootCamp’s private Facebook group, the activity level in the group increases by up to 30%.

4. Learn to Show, Not Tell 

Jeffrey Lotspeich, a hairstylist and owner of Tresses Tamed by Jeffrey Allen at Indulge Salon in Walnut Creek, Calif., has found success by posting his before and after photos of his clients’ hairstyles on Instagram and Facebook. Whether it’s showcasing a major cut and color transformation or illustrating how different products can create depth and volume, Lotspeich has created a successful online portfolio of his work. “I believe that demonstrating who you are and what you do on social media really pays off in terms of marketing and obtaining new business,” says Lotspeich who also sends out his appointment calendar on Facebook and Instagram to let customers know his upcoming availability.

5. Offer Customer Rewards

What if there was an easy way to promote your business to each of your customer’s’ social media followers? Patxi’s Pizza offers a social media promotion where customers who show their server that they checked in to Patxi’s on Foursquare, Facebook or Yelp, or who mention the pizzeria on Twitter, get a Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer for $1 or a free fountain drink.

6. Showcase Your Expertise

Let your customers know why you are the small business expert in your field of choice and why they should patronize your business. Sarni Cleaners, a family-owned and family-run dry cleaning service in Everett, Mass., features a blog on their website offering practical advice on relevant topics including, “How to Care for Raincoats” and how to wash delicate clothing in a washing machine using a mesh bag. Their Twitter posts also impart knowledge on subjects such as scaring away Halloween stains, and how hair care products can cause discoloration on clothing.

7. Drive Traffic to Your Website By Showcasing Your Products

When Shop Primadonna, an online accessories store, wanted to use social media to drive traffic to their e-commerce website, they began showcasing their inventory on Instagram and illustrating how to incorporate accessories such as a clutch, purse and boots into an overall fashion statement. The company also uses social media to announce free shipping days, flash sales and more.

8. Create a Customer Database

Polito’s Pizza, a Wisconsin-based pizzeria sends out frequent notices on Twitter and Facebook with a link that encourages customers to go to the birthday club page and sign up receive a free slice of pizza on their special day. The promotion also serves as a successful marketing tool for the company by giving customers who follow Polito’s on Twitter and Facebook a link that takes them to the company website and rewards club page. Signing up for the reward club promotion requires an e-mail address, and customers are encouraged to tell three friends about the promotion. This has allowed Polito’s to create an e-mail database of existing and potential customers.

9. Get Creative with Discounts

Luna Park Restaurant in San Francisco has invited Twitter followers to wear dark glasses to dinner, and receive 50% off of their food check, and has also rewarded guests who wear pink apparel to dinner with a 50% discount off their total bill. By keeping it fresh and offering deep discounts, Luna Park attracts customers to the restaurant on weeknights when the restaurant is typically less crowded.

10. Use Social Media to Build Your Brand and Support a Good Cause

Do you have industry-related events or causes that you align with that you can share with your customers on social media? Three years ago, Monika Allen and Tara Baize co-founded Glam Runner, a company that makes custom running tutus. Their goal: to bring glamour to the sport of running, and to also donate a portion of their company’s proceeds to the non-profit, Girls on the Run of San Diego, a life-changing 12-week program for girls ages 8-13 that culminates in a 5k run.

Both volunteer coaches for Girls on the Run, Allen and Baize use Twitter and other social media to announce upcoming races and fundraisers in the Southern California area that may be of interest to their followers. They also invite followers to send in photos of customers wearing their tutus at races. These photo opps not only provide a chance for customers to get recognition via social media, but also an opportunity for the company to showcase their latest custom tutu designs.

11. Invite Customers to Your Business With a Tweetup

They’re called “Tweetups” and these in-person mixers give small businesses a chance to meet their Twitter followers in person, get customer feedback, and introduce new menus/products. Using social media, send out invites through e-mail, Facebook and Twitter to the event, and encourage your followers and others to also send out invites to the Tweetup.

A tweetup is a great way for a small business to engage in face-to-face time with customers and build valuable brand loyalty.

If you feel you don’t have enough Twitter followers to hold an event, consider bringing in a speaker or local business leaders who can help to create a buzz. By joining forces with your local Chamber of Commerce or non-profit, you can also expand your reach on Twitter to ensure more attendees.

The Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver, recently partnered with the Mile High Down Syndrome Association to host a Tweetup. By offering the charitable organization a venue to hold their fundraiser, Wynkoop gave customers who followed both them and the non-profit on Twitter, the chance to enjoy an evening of good food and beverages while also raising money for a good cause. Be sure to create a Twitter hashtag for the event to create buzz both before the event and a chance for attendees to connect after the event. Example #mycompanyname2014tweetup

12. Reward Loyal Customers

At Preston Wynne, a spa in Saratoga, California, customers earn Spa Rewards Points for purchases, referrals and pre-scheduling appointments. If clients schedule their next spa day before they leave the spa, they earn 5,000 reward points with a value of $5. Each customer’s account balance is printed on their receipt each time they visit. The spa promotes the rewards program on their website and Facebook page, and also uses social media, including Twitter to promote new spa treatments, products and educational seminars on topics such as anti-aging.

13. Listen and Respond to Customer Feedback

Some of the most social media savvy small businesses realize the importance of engaging with their customers on social media whether that means answering questions on Facebook, or addressing customer concerns posted on their business blog. Four years ago, Sam’s Chowder House received a lot of feedback from customers (on Facebook and Twitter) wanting to see a Sam’s in their neighborhood. Rather than expanding their business to brick and mortar locations, Sam’s decided to launch a food truck program to bring Sam’s to the masses. Their Sam’s Chowdermobile page (samschowedermobile.com) lists the times and locations where their food trucks will appear and attracts thousands of fans each day.

 

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