Social Success: 7 Social Media Marketing Tips!

Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing is vital, if you spend any appreciable amount of time at all surfing the web (which let’s face it, is one of the easiest ways to get sidetracked, sucked in, and lose track of hours at a time), you’ve probably heard the cautionary tale of Amy’s Baking Company that has taken the e-world by storm lately.

About two years ago, the restaurant received a poor, one-star review on Yelp in which the customer complained of exorbitantly slow service, overpriced menu items, and being met with gruff indignation when he complained. Owners Sam and Amy Bouzaglo, rather than reply politely and thank him for his opinion, or better yet ignore it altogether, instead went on a tirade and insulted the man, calling him ugly, implying he was a loser and/or tramp, and saying his opinions about what he thinks is good food were wrong.

From bad to worse, Amy’s Baking Company epic social media fail

This understandably created a backlash, and dozens of more unflattering Yelp reviews started to post. It became so bad that their business was severely affected, and they resorted to appealing to Gordon Ramsay (host of “Kitchen Nightmares”, a show in which the acclaimed chef attempts to fix struggling eateries). Their absolute refusal to accept any forms of criticism continued, even in the face of an expert, and Ramsay was forced to resign his services after a day – a first for him and the show.

When the episode aired in mid-May, Amy and Sam’s deplorable behavior to both their guests and staff was on display for the entire world to see, and a few folks took to their Facebook page to let them know what they thought. Learning nothing from their previous lesson with Yelp two years prior, they unleashed a caps-lock and profanity laden tirade upon the “reddits” and “yelps” who were attacking them, only to deny everything the next day (after hiring a PR firm) and claim they were hacked.

The power of social media marketing can be used for the good of your business

While many (including yours truly) took no small amount of schadenfreude in watching the downfall of people who berate and verbally abuse their customers and staff, think that anyone who disagrees with their opinion about food is an idiot, and who brazenly pocket the tips left for their servers and waiters (no joke), it is still a sobering reminder of the power of social media.

When used correctly, social media marketing can be one of (if not the) biggest weapons in a small business owner’s arsenal. When abused or misunderstood entirely, as with the Bouzaglos, that very same weapon can blow up in your face and leave your business a smoldering pile of rubble (if you think I’m being dramatic, carve out 45 minutes and watch the episode of Kitchen Nightmares online and tell me if you think Amy’s Baking Company will survive another year…I’ll wait here).

Social Media Marketing7 basic tips for small business social media marketing

Tip 1: Create a good foundation with a website, Facebook page and blog

This should be a no-brainer, but a large amount of small businesses do not even have a website. If you’re one of those, stop reading this and go get one! A website is absolutely fundamental to the success of your social media, as this is where your content will originate – social media merely offers up a variety of ways to disseminate that content.

A blog is a crucial component as well, as this will be your chance to personalize your business, your story, and provide a face and voice to your company. Frequency of updates will depend on your business type and size, but it’s a great way to humanize your business and connect with people. And speaking of connections, if you only take advantage of one social media site for your business, make sure that it’s Facebook. Its active user base of over 1.1 billion is simply too large an audience to overlook, and a business page is extraordinarily easy to set up – it will take you less than 30 minutes.

Tip 2: Move quickly with your Social Media Marketing

Web 2.0 was a term coined a few years back that was a precursor to social media. 2.0 enabled sites allowed end-user communication and interaction, and it as seen as such a paradigm shift that it merited the 2.0 moniker, which implied sites without social interaction were a thing of the past. As it became more prominent, people realized the value they were providing to site owners by their activity and feedback, and grew to expect quick replies.

One of the best ways to disenfranchise a customer online is by neglecting to respond in a timely manner. Whether it be an inbound email asking what the specials are tonight or a Facebook post wondering if you’re doing any promotions for an upcoming holiday, this generation of Web 2.0 veterans are used to a quick turnaround. That is not to say you need to be glued to your smartphone all day and reply within nanoseconds, but you will need to check your website, email and all social media pages multiple times a day and do your best to respond within 24 hours.

Tip 3: Survey Your Customers

Prior to the web, business owners were forced to either do in-person or mail surveys to gauge what their customers were enjoying, what they weren’t, and what they would like to see changed. With social media, you can get real-time results in a fraction of the time, and without having to spend a dime to send any mail. Facebook polls are a popular option, but Twitter also allows your customers to create # (hashtags) around whatever they want, meaning you could theoretically ask your Twitter followers if they wanted bacon or sausage in your about-to-be-unveiled breakfast burrito and to vote using hashtags. Twitter will tally everything up for you, which is nice. Sending out email messages to your mailing list is another tried-and-true method to poll people into what they’re thinking.

Tip 4: Prepare for Negative Feedback

Honestly, this is probably one of the most difficult things to accept when your business and product are out there on the internet and social media. Regardless of what you do, you’re not going to make a believer out of everyone, and there will inevitably be people who don’t like your product.

The absolute worst thing you can do is what Amy and Sam did, without doubt. A much better approach to negative feedback is to either, A) respond in a thoughtful, polite manner and express thanks that the dissatisfied customer responded while assuring them that you’ll take their ideas into consideration (if the criticism is genuine and constructive, or B) ignore it altogether (if it is baseless trashing, known as “flaming” on social media). It can be hard to hear when someone doesn’t love or understand your life’s passion, but it is going to happen so prepare yourself.

Tip 5: Get Those Email Addresses!

Do not overlook this critical step in your social media marketing plan. Though it’s been around a heck of a lot longer than Facebook and Twitter, email newsletters are without a doubt one of the most effective ways to reach your customers online. Encourage people to go to your website to and sign up for your newsletter by offering special deals or discounts to those that do. Reward your subscribers by giving them first crack at sales and promotions. Look into email marketing applications such as Mail Chip, iContact and Constant Contact to manage your database and make designing snappy and professional mailings a breeze.

Tip 6: Offer Incentives

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and the same holds true for social media. Incentivizing your pages are one of the best ways to grow your user base. Giveaways on Facebook or Twitter work well (“For every 100 new followers we get, we’ll be giving away X, so tell your friends!”), and offering exclusive promotions to those that are actively engaged with your brand online is a great way to encourage them to stay active and to market your business to their sphere of influence.

Tip 7: Personality

As mentioned above with the blog, social media offers unprecedented direct communication with your audience, and it’s a great way to show them who you really are. Offering insights into why you got into business in the first place, funny stories about your past, or even personal photos from your home and family life are all great ways to put a face to your businesses. People are much more likely to connect to a brand if they know that there are good, decent, and interesting people behind it.

Good planning helps avoid pitfalls when it come to Social Media Marketing

There’s obviously more details and finer thoughts that will go into creating a successful social media marketing plan for your business, but the operative word there is “plan”. While getting your main website and Facebook page up and running should be done immediately, check around on the web to what your competition is up to – depending on your business type, your location, your services offered and your clientele, certain social media avenues like Foursquare, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Flickr, or others may not make sense to even pursue.

If you can keep in mind some of the basic social media marketing guidelines discussed above in the tips, you should not only be able to have a fun and engaging experience online with your customers, but you will also avoid the pratfalls that a surprisingly large amount of small business owners fall victim to… although none quite as spectacularly as Amy and Sam.

Author: Jerry Whitehead