One of my pet hates with businesses using social media is that they seem to have ignored the 'Social' aspect of it. Many businesses are more concerned with transferring their skill set from traditional marketing efforts onto the new digital platforms than learning new ways. One way traffic. They solely focus on selling to their audience without getting to know their audience or listening to them. They use their social media channels as their digital billboards. They forget about the social side of things and more importantly don't learn how to engage with their fans. Scarily, this just doesn’t apply to the larger businesses and brands, but even local businesses in Northern Ireland are guilty of this.

It takes time and money to build your presence online.

Anyone who has started a business from the ground up knows how hard it is to get your name out there with a limited budget or no marketing budget at all. This is why a lot of small businesses have turned to social media, seeing as it's seen as the 'free' marketing channel. Small business owners like yourself go to these endless free events and are told social media can bring in an X amount increase in sales. The people leading these seminars tend to leave out the facts. The brands they give examples of are already a proven brand or it's a local business that has invested in paid advertising at the beginning to gain their initial followers.

To earn a successful return through social media without money or consistently using paid advertising is hard work. To get those sales, leads or signups, there are no shortcuts. You will need to come up with creative content and engage with the community that you have built up.

You need to engage with your audience.

Engagement is answering your customers/potential customers questions when they have any. If someone mentions you on twitter and has an issue/question/kind comment etc. engage with that person. Don't ignore or let it go unanswered.

Think back to when the last time a brand interacted with you online. If it was a good experience it will add value to the customer relationship and you will more than likely buy from that brand again. If it was a negative experience you may start to seek an alternative brand. It's not that we as customers are becoming more fickle, its that we have more buying power than we previously had.

So, for your business, you've got to think like the customer. If you aren't engaging with your customers online and all you're doing is promoting your products they will go elsewhere. Even Apple who has been very slow to adapt to social media created an @applesupport Twitter account to try and offer solutions to people's issues. So if Apple, the worlds most popular brand feels the need to do it, you as business owner/marketer should too. Otherwise, all your previous work will go to waste.

You may have had an initial budget to increase your audience through Paid Promotion across Twitter and Facebook, but you might not have had the budget to sustain it. To keep people coming back to your page you need to build up the level of engagement with your audience.

Consistency is key.

Using social media, you need to be consistent. If you use social media regularly and then drop off the pace of the number of posts or stop all of a sudden, then your customers will go away. Look at it in another way, like a friendship. If you start texting a friend less, hang out less and don't stay in touch, then it's more than likely that that friendship will fizzle out. We have all experienced this, whether it was on purpose or not. This happens the same with your brands. If you stop engagement with your customers, then some other business will come in and take your place. There is always an alternative. So ensure you have notifications set up on your social media channels to be alerted when your brand is mentioned or someone has a question. If you want downtime, ensure you have automatic responses turned on in your messenger etc.

The takeaway:

Don't treat social media like your advert channel. Of course, advertise products but offer added value to your customers. Engage, offer support, ask for ideas etc. and don't forget to be consistent.

If you have any questions about anything you've read etc, or would like some help to get started then please get in touch.