5 Reasons to Get Social Now

With social media, small businesses can give their local word-of-mouth global reach

Words by Ryan Atkinson

Social media as we know it was birthed back in 2004, and while it seemed like a fad, it doesn’t look like it will be going away anytime soon. With its ever-changing layouts and rules, the social media landscape can be a daunting frontier. If you’re like most business owners, you’re too busy running your shop to figure it out. And if you can’t figure it out, what value could it possibly have?

Social media affords small businesses a unique marketing opportunity that was only available in limited supply a decade ago. Without big advertising budgets, word-of-mouth has long been the staple of many an organization’s marketing plan. Now thanks to social media, your reach of word-of-mouth can span the globe. Beyond the basics of word-of-mouth, social media gives small businesses five key things:

1. Credibility
Currently, 69% of American adults are engaged on social media. With that high of a percentage, if you’re not involved with social media, it’s almost as if you don’t exist. A critical part of showing you're a credible business is being easy to find.

Facebook is now neck-and-neck with Google in terms of driving traffic to websites. If a potential customer is looking up your shop after meeting you, there's a 50/50 chance they'll be looking for your Facebook page. If nothing comes up in their quick search, that could be the end of their search for you.

Having a well-maintained profile in a social media channel —on Facebook, in particular — will add a boost of credibility to your cause.

2. Attraction
A strong social media presence shows that a company is passionate about what they do, and is willing to utilize current trends. It also shows a willingness to innovate and push the envelope. This is great for attracting customers who tend to have a higher income and who are more willing to try new technology.

Using relevant and valuable content attracts a tribe that can provide a shop with a dedicated core group of customers. This will make it easier to decide what sales to run and where to run them. They could also help with offline marketing efforts.

Having a social media-savvy business also helps attract top talent that could help give your shop a cutting edge. As the landscape of business changes to incorporate more apps and new technology, it will be beneficial to have people on staff who intuitively "get it." That's a win for your business, and a win for your more tech-savvy customers.

3. Authority
Social media channels like Twitter and Facebook allow you to share your thoughts and ideas with your followers. This provides an excellent opportunity to share a bit about what you know of your industry. Being willing to freely share information builds trust with potential customers.

Let’s say someone is looking for a local bike shop, and they come across two companies. Both may have well designed websites and a well maintained Facebook presence. All of their customers look happy and leave great reviews. However, only one shares quick video tutorials on their Facebook page and has a list of free workshops on their website.

Consumers are more likely go for the second option, as they were not only shown what to expect, but were also educated in the process. Being taught how to change a tire, or the proper placement of a helmet, turns a stranger into a fan before they even walk through the door.

4. Communication
Social media is all about communication. Two of the most downloaded apps in the Apple App Store in 2017 were messaging apps (Snapchat and Facebook Messenger). These networks give you the opportunity to connect one-on-one with customers. Facebook Messenger and Twitter are increasingly being used as means of communication between customers and businesses.

With all of this connectivity, consumers are getting used to connecting with businesses on this level. Reaching out to a business with a question is now happening with tweets or messages through Facebook, long before a phone call is made and even longer before an email is sent.

Being quick to answer and offering helpful responses will go a long way in winning new customers and supporting regulars.

Bonus round: After asking permission, these mini Q&A sessions can be recycled into content for blogs or videos, which will also increase your SEO potential.

5. Insight
There is lots of talk on the net about “Big Data.” The downside of free social media services is that they have access to a wealth of freely given information. There are ways to use that to your benefit. One key way is to keep on eye on your audience metrics. Most social networks give business accounts the ability to look at their analytics. Much like Google Analytics, they show how much attention your social accounts are getting by tracking followers/likes in general, as well as for specific posts.

Beyond this, they can tell you key demographic information—gender, age, income, location, and even what type of device they use—about the audience you’re attracting. But wait, there’s more. These analytics give you insight into psychographic information, as well. These are things like interests, political/religious affiliations, hobbies, and other brands they might like.

Having this information makes it easier to create content you know your audience will be interested in. It also allows you to target paid advertising better on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Better targeted ads mean a lower cost per customer.

Where to begin?

If all of this has you convinced that you needed to ramp up your business's social presence yesterday, here are some tips to get you on your way.

Choose Two
There are five major social networks, and at least five more minor ones. Take some time to do a little research. Figure out where your customers spend their time (hit the sales floor and ask your customers and staff directly!). Also, think about which platforms fit your business model. Then pick just two networks to stick with and figure out. It’s better to be great on a few networks than to be mediocre on all of them.

Getting Social Survey
Choose which social media your shop uses (check all that apply).
Which social media do you think drives the most business?

Provide Value
Before you post, think about whether or not it will provide value to a customer or potential customer. Put it through the “E Test.” Will the post Educate? Will it Encourage? Will it Entertain? If it does any of those things, then proceed.

Be Consistent
So you’ve picked your two networks and have posts that provide value—awesome. Now keep it up! Find a schedule that works for you, and stick with it. Each social network has its own ebb and flow, but as a general rule, post three times a week to stay relevant to current and potential customers. Whatever time frame you choose, stick with. Consistent value is how you win at social, no matter how much things seem to change.

Ryan Atkinson is President and Co-Owner of SmartEtailing, which provides website, marketing, and data solutions to help independent bicycle retailers compete in an evolving retail world.