How Effective Use of Social Media Can Help Your Small Business

The use of social media is no longer a fad or trend; it is a necessity for any business that is looking to effectively reach out to its customers, engage with them, stay relevant, and maintain brand awareness. In the past, business and indeed marketing was a one-way street with no dialogue. But today, social media has changed the way of doing business and has placed dialogue at the center stage of business relations.  While some small businesses are yet to fully implement social media policies, some are already leveraging the potency of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Tumblr just to mention a few. In this post I will be discussing about small businesses that know how to use social media effectively.

As the largest social media site, Facebook can offer small businesses massive exposure, allowing business owners to save significantly on marketing costs. Over the years, Facebook has implemented various changes to make the platform more small-business friendly. As such, businesses can make use of photos, Facebook advertising and additional apps to market their brands. Examples of small businesses using Facebook for successfully are Mabel’s Labels and Cake Pop Princess.

Mabel’s Labels

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Mabel’s Labels is a small business in Ontario, Canada that specializes in creating sticky labels for kids so they will not misplace their belongings. Apart from having a very colourful Facebook Page, this small company uses their Page to inform their customers and fans about any special offers and interesting products that they have introduced. The owners make good use of pictures of children using their products. Bringing a human face to products is a growing and essential trend on social media and it is a strategy that Mabel’s Labels has really leveraged. They encourage fans to join the page and to tag photos; it is not a surprise that their Facebook Page is jam packed with tagged photos.

Another interesting aspect about their Facebook strategy is the use of video uploads. The company owners have not only uploaded great videos, but they have also encouraged their customers to upload videos of their kids using the labels bought from the company. The special Livestream area allows fans to access information about events and promotional activities such the popular ‘Fan of the Week’ promotional contest where fans upload photos of their children using products from Mabel’s Labels. The winner receives free sticky labels and is proudly featured on the Facebook Page. But the ‘Fan of Week’ promotion is not the only contest this small company has. The “Contests” area of their Facebook Page features several contests that keep engaging their fans. Mabel’s Label further uses their Facebook Page to ask fans about ideas to improve the company. Customers can also shop straight from the Facebook Page. According to the company, Facebook is a major source of referrals.

Cake Pop Princess
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Cake Pop Princess is based in Kent, UK and has taken the idea of lollipops to a new level by creating cakes and truffles on sticks. This home based small business is growing in popularity beyond the UK and almost all the orders come from the owner’s Facebook Page.  According to the owner, she uses Facebook to interact with her clients and to display her latest creations. Cake Pop Princess’s strategy is to engage her audience by asking for their input about products that she is creating. She also holds her fan’s interests by posting and sharing photos on a regular basis. For this small business owner, the key is genuine interaction with your fans by posting relevant comments instead of spamming people with marketing messages. The key is to moderate your comments and updates so fans will not feel overwhelmed with your messages. The Cake Pop Princess uses giveaways to generate more ‘likes’ for her page. Occasionally, she asks fans to share her Facebook Page so they can join the giveaway contests but this is just a one off requirement, not mandatory for all contests. Her other strategy is to partner with other relevant companies especially for contests and giveaways. This is a great way to make more people aware of your company— your fans ‘like’ the other company and fans of the other company ‘like’ your company. It is a quid pro quo!

Twitter is a great social networking tool for communicating with customers and followers in real time using very brief messages. Twitter allows you to set yourself up as an industry leader, to build awareness about your business and to really zero in on those users that have a keen interest in your business. Both big and small businesses are engaging massively with their customers on Twitter. Examples of small businesses that use Twitter successfully are the Cream Brullee Man and the Roger Smith Hotel.

The Cream Brullee Man
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The owner of Cream Brullee Man located in San Francisco is Curtis Kimball. His business, which has shown remarkable growth, started as a side job to complement his work as a carpenter. Because his crème brûlée business, which operated from a cart, was unlicensed, he could only communicate with potential clients via social media. He quickly realized that most of his customers had found him through Twitter. His customers would buy from his mobile cart and then tweet about the goodies they had bought and told their followers where Kimball was located at any given time. Today, the owner of Crème Brûlée Man has more than 20,000 Twitter followers. Kimball’s strategy is less about tweeting out overt marketing messages; he largely uses Twitter to tell his followers where he is and the great experiences he is having selling his products around San Francisco. He also uses his Twitter account to tell his followers and customers about the new flavors available each day.  As his catering business thrived, Kimball was able to quit his carpentry job to focus on selling his delicious crème brûlée.

The Roger Smith Hotel
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The Roger Smith Hotel in New York is a popular, stylish boutique that faced a lot of competition from the larger trendy hotels in the region. This boutique hotel took to Twitter to generate buzz for its brand. However, instead of solely focusing on just any follower, they focused on the influencers on Twitter who would help them spread the message about the great services that The Roger Smith Hotel was offering. The Roger Smith Hotel asked some of the Twitter influencers to visit their hotel while they were in New York. The influencers took up the invitation and once they visited the hotel, they tweeted about the pleasant experience they had. By reaching out to influencers, the Roger Smith Hotel attracted traffic to its doors, thanks to the positive, widespread word of mouth by social media influencers. The hotel became serious about its social media strategy by setting up a Twitter booth in the lobby. Guests who find out about the hotel through Twitter are offered special discounts and other giveaways. The Roger Smith Hotel uses Twitter to talk with their present and past guests thereby encouraging potential patrons to want to pop-by the hotel. The busy timeline is an indication of the time and effort that Roger Smith Hotel has placed in interacting with its customers and followers.

Google+ is still a growing social network when compared to Facebook and Twitter. Nevertheless, Google Plus offers immense benefits to businesses by integrating your profile to other Google facilities such as Google Maps, Google Search, and Google Places. Notably, due to its integration with Google Search, your profile, and subsequently your business is likely to gain more visibility due to the direct search engine optimization benefits. Integration with Google Places will be especially beneficial for brick and motor businesses. Examples of businesses using Google Plus successfully are NO8, which campaigns for LGBT rights, and the Social Skillet.

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Fresh, relevant content is very important to most Google Plus users. The users on this social networking platform are not looking to engage with brands that post the same content on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites. The users are in fact looking for unique content that has not been recycled across other social media outlets. NOH8 understands this fact only too well. NOH8 makes use of its Google Plus business page to share thoughtful videos that support the goals of the organization. The group also shares captivating photos that many of the people in their Google Plus circles appreciate. According to the founders of the organization, posting photos and sharing videos on Google Plus is a way for them to engage their audience and to interact with people from all over the world who support their primary message. As a small organization, they attribute their success to the fact that they create interesting and relevant content for their brand page.

The Social Skillet
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The Social Skillet is an unconventional online cooking school/tutorial founded by Lee Allison and Eric McKee. These two accomplished cooks make good use of Google Plus for live demonstrations on how to prepare some of their delicacies. On Google Plus, they host the G+ Round Table for their interesting demonstrations, which offer potential clients a peak at their cooking and training skills. Their video demonstrations on Google Hangout are largely interactive so those in their circle interact directly with the chef and with others who are participating in the hangout. This approach has generated a lot of traffic to their Social Skillet business. Today, over 13000 users have added Social Skillet in their Google Plus circle. The strategy used by Social Skillet is focusing less on direct marketing messages and more on offering relevant cooking demonstrations that in turn prove the chefs’ cooking skills. The viewers who participate in the Google Plus hangouts also feel that they receive valuable information and not just a marketing message compelling them to buy or pay for a service.

YouTube attracts millions of viewers each day and continues to be an effective marketing and branding channel for small and large businesses. Examples of small business using YouTube videos successfully are Etsy and Luxy Hair.

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Part of Etsy’s success with YouTube can be attributed to the fact that it is a visual business that is naturally suited for video. Etsy uses YouTube video to showcase the vibrant handmade items created by its members. It offers viewers a look into the day-to-day life of different small businesses using Etsy to sell their merchandise. The main strategy for Etsy is covert branding that overlooks pushy marketing messages and instead focuses on showing viewers that the company truly cares about its members and entrepreneurs who sell from the site. Features such as the ‘How to Tuesday’ are also great spaces that offer members a chance to create YouTube videos where they share advice and their success stories.

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Luxy Hair is a hair extension company with a great YouTube marketing strategy. Their approach is simple yet rigorous at the same time- they have done careful market analysis to locate their audience. As such, their YouTube videos target the relevant demographic group. Luxy Hair also plays around with popular trends to appeal to the fashion senses of their target audience. For example, some of their video tutorials show their viewers how to do their hair like Kim Kardashian. These types of trendsetting videos attract a lot of traffic for Luxy Hair. Today, this small brand has more than 200 videos on YouTube offering tutorials one all things hair.

As a visual social networking site, Pinterest has allowed businesses to not only show case their products; it has also enabled them, through the ‘repins,’ to attract traffic to their websites and thus to the business itself. The key to succeeding on Pinterest for many small businesses is finding a good match between your products and service and your target audience. If you have an audience for your products and services, Pinterest can be a great trigger of growth for your business. Two examples of small businesses that are using Pinterest successfully are and Skinny Taste.
Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 12.14.53 is a mother-daughter creation that targets teens who are keen on popular trends. The website largely focuses on the teen crowd in Louisville, Kentucky. The mother-daughter team comprising of mother, Kim, and daughter, Chloe built a Pinterest board where they share amazing, teen-friendly arts and crafts, and fashion images that they sourced from other sites. The team has really focused on posting cool videos and pictures on their board. They not only post their own content regularly but they also keep followers engaged through thoughtful content creation. For examples, most of the videos they post focus on showing their teenage audience how to do something cool like decorating their nails or trying out a new, stylish hairdo. This approach has generated a lot of ‘likes’ and repins for popcosmo’s board with over 10,000 new visitors viewing their board in just a month. These views have also translated to over 120,000 unique page views a month for their website, which is set to attract many advertisers across the country.

Skinny Taste
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Skinny Taste is a popular food blog created by Gina Homolka in 2008. Skinny Taste is arguably the most popular food blog on Pinterest attracting over 130,000 fans and, according to the Business Insider, it is the fourth most famous commercial Pinterest account. The Skinny Taste website attracts over 2.5 million viewers each month and most of this traffic can be attributed to the Pinterest followership the boards attract.
Gina Homolka merges both beautiful photography with healthy creations that are of interest to her audience, which is mostly an audience focused on healthy eating. For the owner of Skinny Taste, success on Pinterest requires making connections with other users who are well known for their quality pins. Once you network with these influencers (given that you too are posting high quality pins), they are likely to pin your products on their boards, which already attract huge followings.

Tumblr mixes the concepts of social media and blogging.  This microblogging platform works on the premise that brief content can indeed generate interest and initiate interactions between brands and their customers. Some small businesses that are using Tumblr successfully include Somebody’s Mother’s and the Museum of Useful Things.

Somebody’s Mother’s
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Somebody’s Mother’s is a small company that specializes in creating dessert sauces. It has not only integrated its website with Tumblr but it has also found a way of using Tumblr’s social features to share images of the tasty dessert sauces it creates. Somebody’s Mother’s uses a Tumblr web design, which makes it easy for customers and site visitors to transit from the blog to their website, and vice versa, without so much realizing when they exist the Tumblr blog or the business website. The use of high quality images of their desserts also attracts a large amount of traffic to the Somebody’s Mother’s site from their Tumblr blog.

The Museum of Useful Things
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The Museum of Useful Things sells… well, useful things that come in handy in day-to-day life. Their Tumblr blog is a major source of traffic and publicity for their business. Their main strategy for this company is to use a mixture of high quality images mixed with text posts to create an engaging and useful blog. Their textual content briefly explains the type of products the Museum of Useful things sell. While their image content offers an up-close, visually attractive look of the actual utilitarian stuff they sell.