Think back to 2011. If your small business was already in business, a competitive advantage was having an e-commerce website that was simple to navigate and easy to buy from. Bonus points for an appealing design and search-engine optimized website copy.
But then the social media tidal wave broke. It washed away the Internet as we knew it and made savvy e-commerce tactics basic. It generated Twitter and Facebook, #hashtags and selfies—transforming human behaviour in the process.
People today shop and buy differently than five years ago because most of us spend every spare moment inside social media networks we’ve created from our relationships and interests. Nowadays we stumble upon desirable consumer goods within our social feeds, rather than intentionally searching the web to find what we want.
As a small business owner, the challenge now is to find a “social selling” approach that works for your brand. Here are three things to keep in mind:
- Follow your customers. Focus on building relationships within the “right” social networks—the ones where your best customers engage and share. Spend time and energy on the social platforms that naturally fit your small business. Instagram makes perfect sense for a fashion retailer but maybe not for an accounting firm (which might be better served on LinkedIn). If teenagers are your core customers, Snapchat is likely a better fit than Facebook. Be strategic about where you cultivate your brand’s social presence. Join the right platforms and begin listening to customer conversations for entry points. Build your network as you build trust by sharing information, proposing solutions to problems, answering questions, or otherwise adding value to those conversations. Learn the “comment etiquette” for each community and play by the rules. It can backfire if you’re too constant (and blatant) in driving people to your website.
- Create and curate great content. Engage people with meaningful information, original ideas, and eye-catching visuals. (Especially visuals. Instagram’s popularity is proof that a picture is worth a thousand words.) Decide how often you want to post on each platform you follow then plan out a social content calendar that’s a healthy mix of original and sourced material. Whether you’re reposting a funny image, retweeting a helpful article, our sharing a product demonstration video, make sure it’s information your customers will appreciate. Track how long your followers are commenting, liking, or sharing your posts. The better the content, the longer its social media shelf-life
- Seed your newsfeeds with calls to action. These can be subtle or obvious, depending on the context. Maybe it’s a beautiful food photograph with a simple comment, “click the link in our bio for recipe details”, which sends people to your restaurant website. Or, an elaborate “customer selfie contest” that asks people to share and #hashtag images or videos of themselves enjoying your product, in exchange for a freebie or discount. Inspire people to take action in myriad ways using the content you share. Connect it back to your small business and be ready to sell when people in your networks discover that they need your product.