After we released Zoho Social last month, I’ve been talking to a lot of customers, replying to love and hate emails, helping them set up their accounts and what not. It’s fun helping small businesses get better at social media marketing!
Last weekend, I was looking forward to meeting someone at my favorite cafe. No, this wasn’t about work. It was about food! A young entrepreneur who started a food-delivery business right after he graduated got in touch with me over Twitter. He said he was meeting some foodies in the city over the last couple of weeks and wanted to meet me to talk about my favorite food joints in the city. Well, that tells you a thing or two about me. 😉
He mentioned how his idea turned into reality, and he’s been growing his business month-by-month with word-of-mouth and zero ads. I found that it was commendable for a 24-year-old to bootstrap such a business and do well for himself. He keeps his regular customers happy in a Whats App group by offering special deals and discounts sent only in the group. Smart!
Soon after we spoke about Zoho and how we do marketing, he asked me how he can leverage “content marketing” and use social media to reach out to existing customers and their networks. Especially because social media is free!
Nothing is free though, especially not social media. There’s an opportunity cost to it, apart from the time and energy that you need to learn and do any marketing activity.
I asked him a question – “How do you think social media can help you?” He said, “it’s a medium to reach out and engage with existing as well as new customers”. What he said wasn’t wrong, just that I wanted him to think of the big picture. We left the coffee shop after each one of us had finished 2 Iced Caffè Lattes each, over a long discussion on social media marketing strategy for small businesses and, of course, food.
Businesses that are serious about social media don’t believe in gimmicks or discount codes and for their social media is a part of sales, marketing, customer support and other functions of the business. Like every other form of marketing, social media has evolved over the years. Even for large brands, it’s not just about buying Twitter trends or running a contest on your favorite social media network. Your target audience most likely won’t fall for it and you shouldn’t be doing it unless of course you’re crazy about absolute numbers alone.
Those who *get* social media right, listen to what’s being talked about them, their competitors and the industry. They follow and engage with customers, have a well-defined content strategy to drive relationship with those who matter (targeting is the key) and do interesting stuff which expands beyond the horizon of online engagement (social media has an interesting offline-online angle that I would talk about in another post). Social media isn’t just about broadcasting (well, even email marketing isn’t that anymore. Times have changed!)
From a mere follower count/page likes war to a full circle social media plan, today, social media is more strategic than ever before.
Social is personal. Think of it – your brand is intruding into my Facebook timeline where I am looking at pictures and messages from my friends and family. You better have something good for me to follow you, no?
At the core social media marketing is about 3 activities;
- Listening to what people are saying (about you, your business, your competition, your market)
- Engaging with those who matter on social networks (not by pushing your agenda or product information, but by offering value). It could be an invite to a closed-group event that the audience is passionate about, or a secret sauce that could help the reader, or it could even be a limited time offer for a relevant group of people).
- Having goals and measuring performance at regular intervals. The key is not to be crazy about numbers, but the quality of content that goes out and the engagement that it drives.
One can do this on many social networks, but you’re good if you start with the popular ones.But I run a very small businesses and I do not have the bandwidth to do ALL of this!
OK, start small. Consolidate your efforts. Use automation (and intervene periodically to give a personal touch). At least, get started.
I’m glad this discussion helped him revisit his social media strategy and streamline his efforts for social media marketing. It’s fun to meet passionate business owners, listen to their story and help them grow their businesses as we grow ours. What’s your social media marketing strategy? What’s stopping you from starting with the three core activities?
I’ll soon be talking about more ways to get started with social media marketing for your business. For now, you can start by signing up for Zoho Social and trying it out. It’s designed for and is being used by businesses just like yours.
Image courtesy: Darice Vuong
This post was originally published on the Zoho blog. Check it out for interesting stories around smart software for growing businesses.