Social media has made it easier than ever for small businesses to connect with their consumer base, but all too often business owners rely on a ‘fire-and-forget’ strategy where they’ll create their profile, update it here-and-there with a link to a new blog post or an image, but otherwise put little to no effort in building an active base of followers. What ends up happening is that no one sees their content, no one visits their website, and the business skips on a great opportunity to build a loyal customer or patient base. In comparison, the businesses which thrive are the ones who are taking a hands-on approach to their social presence.
I want to share with you how you can better use social media to grow your business or your practice by building a community of followers who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. There are a lot of different social platforms out there and they all require a tailored strategy to best exploit them, so to keep things simple I am going to focus on the most important social platform of all — Facebook.
Don’t Ask What Your Community Can Do For You, But What You Can Do For Your Community
The first step to building your business’ loyal customer or patient base on Facebook is to create a Page, which serves as your business’ public profile. Having a Page allows you to share your content, offer exclusive deals, and it allows your customer base to directly interact with your business. Making your business’ Page is easy, it’s the next step that takes some time and thought. Your competitors have a Page just like you, so you have to go in with a strategy that will differentiate you from the rest of the pack. You have to offer people something that your competitors don’t have.
What can you offer? Simple, your unique insight. As a business owner, you know things about your products and your industry that others don’t. You also have a unique perspective that sees things from a different angle than others. This is an all-too-often unappreciated strength that allows us to create interesting, one-of-a-kind content that can captivate your audience and attract them to follow you on Facebook, which is an intermediate step to the ultimate goal of getting them to your website and converting them into customers.
Who sees the insight you have to offer? If your Facebook community is small, you won’t have enough organic reach (which is showing up on your followers’ Facebook feeds for free) to get traction. It’s a good idea to promote your content by investing in Facebook ads, which are inexpensive and highly targeted. That way you can reach people outside of your group and you can persuade them to join your community
It’s important to recognize that, at this point, you’re not trying to sell your audience anything. What you want is a community to which you can sell your products or services to over time. To do this, you need to offer something for free — fringe benefits they get for following your business on Facebook. Your unique content forms part of this benefit, but for the best results it’s good to have a diverse set of promotional strategies. These can include complimentary webinars or question-and-answer sessions, and other similar goodies that only you can provide. True, you’re giving away expert knowledge for free, but by doing so you are building your business an exclusive customer base that you can tap into.
There’s no one way of doing things on Facebook, and strategies that work for some businesses won’t work for others. What you definitely don’t want to do, however, is forego the community building, because by doing so you’ll soon see your business at a competitive disadvantage. You have to get creative and, if you’re struggling to find an effective way of culturing an active community of followers, don’t be afraid of asking your consultant for advice. That’s what they’re here for, after all.
Keeping Your Community Active
Once your community starts to take shape, you need to keep the individual members active. The more time someone spends on your Page, the more likely they are to click on a link to your website and the more likely they are to give your business a call. So how can you keep your community active? We offer a number of ideas in our recent article “5 Ways of Getting Your Practices’ Facebook Page Followed.” These include:
- Running contests that call for your followers to engage and interact with your business.
- Ad hoc photo booths at your business that allow your customers to take fun pictures of themselves and share them with their friends.
- Trivia quizzes and other updates, including things that may not be directly related to what you do, but are nevertheless interesting to people and invite them to interact with your Page.
A more advanced strategy is to create a Facebook Group that runs parallel to your Page. Groups allow for a greater range of communication between community members, whereas Pages are more about exclusive interaction with the business. The Group is managed in much the same way the Page would be, including offering a fringe benefit that draws people to it. But, it also allows your business to culture a self-sustaining community, since members can now talk between themselves — all while being exposed to your brand and to your products and services.
How Your Community Rewards You
Your community gives your business the opportunity to promote your brand and your services to a dedicated pool of followers. What does this mean? It means that you now have a dedicated source of traffic to your website, which is what’s doing the heavy lifting for your digital strategy. Once you’ve hooked the customer with an enticing piece of content, or just by persuading him that you deserve his business because you’ve interacted with him on your Page, that person is now more ready to make a purchasing decision on your website than she would have been without that community relationship in place.
Social media communities are the way people interact with each other and with businesses. You may have heard the oft-quoted statistic that in the fourth quarter of 2014 social media drove over 31 percent of traffic to websites. The businesses that benefit from this aren’t relying on luck or unintentional exposure. They’re instead investing in community-building and in their social media strategy. Your business too can have that success. Ask Now Media Group how you can start reaping the benefits of social media.
Formerly at [Tony] Robbins Research International and at Now Media Group as their Director of Marketing, Jonathan has a background in quantitative economics and analytics.