5 ways to use social media in your small business

August 25, 2014

Hiscox Entrepreneur-in-Residence Brian Moran shares why your small business should start using social media today.

As someone who works with social media on a daily basis, it’s hard to fathom how millions of business owners still haven’t seen the light when it comes to using the medium as a tool for business. The overwhelming majority of responses from business owners as to why they aren’t using social media are, “We just don’t have the time.” Social media has fundamentally changed the way that the world communicates. It has seized the megaphone from marketers and large corporations and put it into the collective hands of billions (with a “B”) of consumers. Almost everything marketers learned at the tail end of the 20th century can be thrown out the window. You now have #oldschool marketing vs. #newworld communications (bonus points if you understand why I used the # symbol).

If you want to stay in business, or you’re entertaining the idea of growing your company, then learning how to use social media as a means to an end is critical for achieving your goals. Not having the time is unacceptable. Here are five reasons for you to make the time.

  1. Sales - Your customers are online. Your potential customers are also online. They buy products, play games, post pictures, chat with friends, look for directions and do so much more. If you haven’t figured out by now that your business needs to be online, utilizing social media to attract new customers, then you may not be in business much longer. Ask yourself one question: “Am I losing new customers online because my competitors have established strong footholds on the Internet and my business is nowhere to be found online?”
  2. Customer Service - When is the last time you received a handwritten complaint or compliment? Most likely, it’s the last time you used the printed version of the yellow pages to look up a phone number. Give your customers the option of reaching out to you online. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Merchant Circle and Yelp are just a few of the millions of sites where customers can interact with companies. Provide an outlet where they can praise your fantastic products or vent about issues they had in dealing with your company. They are going online to vent anyway. Take the lead and help direct the conversation to where it will have a positive outcome for your customer and your company. If you run a retail business, people are talking about your company online. They are posting reviews, both positive and negative, which can affect your bottom line. Burying your head in the sand will not make the reviews go away…but they could scare off potential customers. Go to www.google.com/alerts and open a free account. Then, use the alert program to track your business online. Whenever your company is mentioned, be it in a review, on Twitter, LinkedIn or any other site accessed by their search engines, Google will send an alert to your email account. You can use this service for market research and tracking the competition as well.
  3. Market Research - Let’s say your business is in the commercial real estate industry. Do you realize how many people are posting articles and other relevant information about commercial real estate online every day? Millions! One of the biggest reasons people use Twitter is to post links to articles or pictures that can be found on other Web sites. Visit the Top 10 Social Book Marking sites and see how many tens of thousands of articles are available on your industry… for free!
  4. Competitive Analysis - Ever wonder what your competition is doing? Those days are over as your competitors are posting their latest happenings right now on one of thousands of social media sites. For companies, it’s a delicate balance of promoting your products/services to your customer base and giving too much information to your competitors. One more piece of advice: follow key individuals of competitors as well as the companies.
  5. Build Brand Awareness - As you share your knowledge and experiences with customers, partners and vendors, your expertise grows. So does their trust in you. They believe that you will continue to provide great content and information that helps them run better businesses. Becoming the “go to” person for a particular problem or opportunity is the highest compliment someone can pay you online. Your goal is to eventually leverage your online relationships into more sales for your business. It’s not that you are selling your customers something they don’t want, but rather that your customers prefer to buy from someone they know, trust and who has the expertise that they are looking for in supporting their purchase decisions.

There are plenty of other business reasons for you to incorporate social media into your daily routine at work, but if the five examples above haven’t convinced you to make time for it then I can’t imagine what else would do the trick. If you’ve invested time, money, energy and other resources into your company, then you owe it to yourself and the people working for you to make an investment into learning how social media can help you and your team achieve your goals for 2014 and beyond. For more small business insight from my Hiscox Entrepreneur-in-Residence series, visit the Hiscox small business blog.

As the Founder & CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, Brian Moran is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs run better businesses. In 2012 and 2013 Brian was named one of the top 100 SMB Influencers in the country by Small Business Trends & Small Biz Technology. For more information, visit his company website www.SmallBusinessEdge.com.