As 2012 came to a close, there were more than one billion members on Facebook, nearly 500 million Twitter users, and approximately 200 million LinkedIn members. Developing an effective social media marketing strategy can allow small businesses to reach out and actively engage with prospective customers that they may not have been able to connect with using other marketing channels. Outlined below are several ways that social media can help small businesses to grow: Image

  1. Humanizes your brand. People prefer to do business with other people, not just brands themselves. Twitter’s new Vine video app provides businesses with the perfect opportunity to introduce key personnel or its quirky, laid-back culture by sharing a brief six second video clip with followers. If you’re not comfortable with creating and uploading a video, a blog is another way for a business to personalize its brand to better connect with customers.

  2. Monitors your brand’s reputation. An infinite number of online conversations take place on a daily basis across social networking sites, and many of these discussions are about the public’s perception of various brands on the market, both good and bad. By utilizing online reputation management tools, you can monitor for mentions of your brand on the Internet to promptly engage in those active conversations. This can go a long way in helping to convert a prospect that has been researching your brand to a viable customer. In the event that negative feedback is being voiced, these monitoring tools allow you to take action quickly before your brand can be damaged.

  3. Positions you as an industry expert. By using your various social media channels to share compelling, industry-specific content that your customer base will find valuable, you can be viewed as an expert in your industry. Earning this status will help you to become the “go to” person in your industry, creating additional opportunities to expand your brand’s presence on the Internet through guest blogging or webcasts.

  4. Builds loyalty for your brand that could arguably be better than word-of-mouth referrals. Now more than ever, people are choosing to follow brands on social media sites, and businesses have the opportunity to turn these online visitors into lifelong customers by using social media to deliver five star customer service and share valuable content that will keep followers coming back for more. Also, since people are more likely to trust a brand that their friends “like” online, brands that are actively making an effort to expand their online fan bases will be more likely to earn new fans that were referred from existing customers.

  5. Increases search engine optimization. There is no question that the current trend with social media marketing is to create more content more often. Recent updates to search engine algorithms will list newer content toward the top of search engine results pages, therefore increasing the likelihood that someone would stumble upon your brand when searching for a product or service online. It’s important to not just create content for the sake of creating content though. Search engines also take into consideration the quality of the content when ranking it on a search engine results page, with poor quality content earning a low page rank.

In closing, small businesses can not afford to not partake in a social media marketing strategy. It offers one of the most affordable ways to reach a wide span of prospective customers while helping to give your brand a voice to connect and engage with your online fans. Also, the more active you are on your various social media channels, the more likely your business will be found online.