How Small Business Can Harness the Power of Social
Although summer officially begins in June, fireworks during the first week of July mark the beginning of the real summer business season in most communities in North America. For some industries, the season brings a natural increase in business. For others, it’s known as the ‘dead season’.
Whichever of the two it brings for your business, there’s a way to balance and leverage the season to bring stability to your brand and an overall benefit to your annual bottom line.
Small business and B2C communications
When Krazy Fish was founded 6 years ago, our goal, and I quote, was to “bring and scale big brand corporate communications and marketing solutions to small and medium-sized businesses worldwide.” We fully realize how ambitious and flamboyant that might sound, but with the very basics of those big brand methods and the communications tools available to everyone in the developed world, it’s not just possible, but the next logical step.
So let’s talk a little about what business-to-customer communications mean to your small business. Big brands have been harnessing the power of talking directly to their potential customers for decades and successfully turning it into sales. Sure, these are multinational or national corporations with hundreds or even tens of thousands of employees, so of course it’s much easier for them. Or is it?
Whether or not any of us like it, ubiquitous Internet access and social media have changed us. They’ve changed the way we start our day, our morning cup of coffee, the way we make purchase choices, and they have most certainly and permanently turned business communications on its head.
Just a little over a decade ago, the only way to reach your target group or a vast audience was by paying for advertising space on television or in print media. Today, your potential customers are ready and waiting online, at your fingertips. But, as many of you have probably tried and failed, it’s not just about opening a bunch of social media profiles, slapping on your logo, and welcoming hoards of online followers and fans.
So what is it that agencies and big brands know that you don’t? Quite simply, the basics of marketing anything, anywhere, to any target audience. ‘Target’ being the operative word here. For starters, think targets, quotas, fiscal quarters, organization, and above all – long-term planning and results.
The long haul
The vast majority of small businesses that have tried employing social media solutions to benefit their business fail in bringing any palpable business results simply because they use social media randomly, occasionally, and with no plan or goals in mind.
Social media marketing is just supposed to appear all fun and games. On the inside and backstage, it’s a pretty serious ordeal. Big brands know it, which is why they’ve all been steadily increasing their social media management and digital advertising budgets.
But how does a small business do it? We began this series of social media marketing insider posts with a fairly straightforward how-to on setting up your business’ social media presence. What we didn’t have room to mention there is how important long-term B2C communications on social media will be for your business.
Any new venture in marketing your business is a lot like starting a new fitness regime. It’s going to take some getting used to, some discipline, and a lot of work and patience. Like with toning your abs, you won’t see any real results for at least the first 6 to 8 weeks. But you will feel the burn. Keep pushing, but don’t overdo it. Use your budget and time wisely and in small quantities. See what works best, then focus more of both your advertising funds and time spent online on what works.
Most importantly, don’t take any breaks. Like any exercise, if you pause, it’s like starting all over again every single time. Once you establish your social media channels and reach at least a few hundred followers of your core customer base, keep up those online communications, come rain or come shine.
Even if your business is a seasonal one, keep your accounts active and monitored throughout the year. Use old photos, news and interesting info from other places around the web, fun stuff or even cute cat videos (if that’s what your audience is into) and a scheduling app to post to your social media accounts year round. But, by all means, keep those channels active. It will do wonders for business when the high season rolls around again.
Harnessing the power of social like the big boys
So that’s one thing the big boys know about marketing that you don’t. Coca Cola quite literally invented the red-and-white-clad Santa Claus that has come to symbolize Christmas for billions of people worldwide when the company was faced with the issue of bottomed sales over the winter season. Theirs was a summer thirst-quenching product and just the overhead costs of keeping on employees and maintaining manufacturing facilities was hitting Coca Cola hard over the slow season, when their sales were barely there. So some entrepreneurial charmer over at Coca Cola decided to cross-market their beverage with the biggest holiday of the year and make Coke a household family brand, present on every table across America for Christmas Eve dinner. Et voila, thus began Coca Cola’s rise to global power.
Back in the day, that took some innovation and a hefty ad budget. Today, they’re doing it on social media and you can too.
Most small businesses with an advertising budget burn through the bulk of that budget during their high season, leaving little to nothing to spend in their slow season. While laying low and keeping costs down during the off season may seem like a wise business decision, it’s quite the opposite when it comes to marketing.
First, you run the great risk of being forgotten by many of your regular customers. Then you run the risk of being on the sidelines if and when competition shows up. Finally, you miss out on a phenomenal opportunity to make your brand stand out while everyone else in your industry is laying low too. Just think where Coca Cola would be if they’d done the same.
Set aside a small but steady social media advertising budget for your off season and plan your social media content and activities accordingly. Plan events, discounts or a small campaign to attract a little more business in your off season or slow months, targeted at your regulars, the so-called core target audience that keeps you in business in the first place.
And, whatever you do, communicate with your core audience in your off months as much and as well as you would in season, if not more. Interact on social media, collect their emails and contact information for future deals, say ‘hi’ occasionally, send a holiday greeting, and remind them you’re still around.