The internet marketing world is abuzz with the promise of social media, and from the way most experts talk about its potential, you’d think that social media would be able to connect you with new members of your target audience, bring you more sales and cook up an omelet at the same time!
Well, unfortunately, it can’t do that last one just yet, but social media can still be an incredibly powerful way to build your brand online. Let’s look at a few ways to use social media in order to grow your web presence:
Connect with Your Target Audience
One of the biggest benefits of social media is the ability to connect with your target audience in new ways. For example, consider how market research changes if you set up a Facebook fan page for your business. Instead of wondering, “Will my customers like this new product?” you can ask them directly by posting the question on your page. Any users who have “liked” your page will see the question on their Facebook walls, enabling them to respond quickly with the information you need.
Put a Personal Face on Your Business
Social media also helps to “personalize” your business, whether you’re based online or off. Think about how you prefer to shop in your day-to-day life. Would you rather shop at impersonal big box stores or at local “mom and pop” shops where the owners know you and your spending preferences?
Most people prefer a more personalized experience, but before the advent of social media, it was very difficult to convey this same sense of intimacy through a static website. Sure, you could put some information about yourself on an “About Me” page, but this communication was one-sided – there was no real way to reach out and learn more about the people who were visiting your site.
Social media sites change this by allowing you to share more about your business and your personal life with your target customers on a day-to-day basis. When you’re active on these sites, your visitors aren’t just interacting with a nameless, faceless website anymore – they’re engaging with a business owner they like and respect.
Answer Questions in Real-Time
Although a phone number and email address have sufficed in the past for taking and responding to customer questions, social media provides another outlet to answer your customers’ questions in real-time. Many online shoppers view engaging via social media to be a “low investment” way to connect – meaning that if they have a question about your product or service, they may be reticent to invest the time in calling or emailing, but more open to shooting a quick question via social media.
One great way to identify users who are asking questions about your business or industry on social networking sites is to use a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, which can automatically search all of the tweets on Twitter for your designated keywords. Say you run a business that repairs broken jewelry. By setting up an automatic search for the words “jewelry repair” or “broken jewelry” (or any other keywords you feel are relevant), you’ll be notified any time someone posts these phrases, allowing you to respond directly.
Demonstrate Your Authority
According to a consumer behavior study by market-research firm Compete:
“Only 6% of consumers surveyed as part of the Online Shopper Intelligence study indicated that they conducted no research prior to their last online purchase.”
And although buyers have many venues for conducting this research – including search engines, forums, review websites and more – social media profiles are being analyzed more frequently to determine if the seller of a product is legit. This is especially true if you’re selling high dollar value products, where customers must overcome a natural hesitation to forking over large sums of money before they’re willing to pull the trigger.
By actively engaging on social networking sites, you can demonstrate to these potential clients that not only are you a legitimate business, you’re also an authority in your field. When you answer questions, share pertinent industry information and help people find the information you need, you’re branding yourself as an expert, encouraging both new sales and sales to people who are on the fence about buying your products.