social media, n., \’sō-shəl ‘mē-dē-ə\
Don’t let the name fool you: it may be called social media, but it deserves serious consideration in the marketing of your small business.
In the simplest terms, social media includes online networks and communities that facilitate conversations:
- between you and your customers
- between you and potential customers
- between you and a potential customer’s brother-in-law, neighbor, or colleague
- between your current customer and a potential customer
- between your current customers
As tempting as it may be to rely on more easily-quantifiable outbound marketing channels, such as ads, there’s undeniable—although harder to measure—value in building relationships with customers online, where they’re already interacting and gathering information.
Social media provides the opportunity to engage with customers and potential customers, to listen to what they value and learn how you can better meet their needs. You can share both how professionally you settle complaints and also the kudos you receive from loyal fans.
Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein, professors of marketing at the ESCP Europe Business School, created a classification scheme with seven different types of social media, the most relevant of which are:
- blogs and microblogs (Twitter)
- social news networking sites (Digg)
- content communities (YouTube)
- social networking sites (Facebook)
Depending on your target market, you may have better luck engaging customers on Facebook rather than Twitter, or vice versa. The key is developing a marketing strategy that allows you to share valuable, relevant, and compelling information with your audience, and convince them to act. It takes patience, consistency, and testing to find what works best. But social media isn’t going away. Put it to work for you!