Social media for small businesses

More and more people are using Facebook & Co as a source of information. Large companies have long since adapted to the new “content channels”, but even small companies, medium-sized businesses, craftsmen or regionally anchored retailers now have to be present in social networks. Simply being there is not enough.

“You should write for your target group”, that’s what all experts say when you ask them how best to start with social media. However, many social media beginners make a mistake and try to write for many target groups at once. This blurs the information and no target group feels properly addressed.

Where and how do companies reach their customers? Is it worth the effort at all? I have put together some tips and information to help small companies use social media successfully and specifically for their target groups.

THE TARGET GROUP DETERMINES THE PLATFORM

Which social network is particularly suitable for your company? This question has to be answered first and the answer to this question is actually quite simple: Networks in which potential customers like to spend most of their time are particularly suitable. This is as true for the net as it is for real life: If you open a shop in a remote side street, the chances of potential customers passing by are relatively low – the situation is quite different in the middle of town. Target group-specific planning is the magic word here. It is therefore worth taking a first look at which network best suits your company.

Large companies conduct market research, analyse the paths on the net and the habits of their website visitors in order to find out how they reach their target groups in social networks. This effort is often too expensive for small businesses.

Tip: As a small company, why don’t you do direct market research and address some of your retail customers: Are you on Facebook? Would you be happy if you could find the latest news about us there? This way you can easily obtain useful first-hand information and gain initial insights into where you meet your customers on the Internet and what content might be of interest to your customers.

WHICH SOCIAL NETWORK IS THE RIGHT ONE?

For all cases: Facebook – ideal for craftsmen, bakers, organic shops, retailers
Facebook is something like the all-rounder among social networks. Its popularity is high across all age groups – Facebook is most popular among those over 45. A craft business, flower shop, baker or organic shop is in good hands here and has a good chance of reaching its target group. Tip: If you don’t advertise, your Facebook presence will cost you nothing for now – apart from the time you invest.

Tip: Don’t let it matter that your customers and potential target group accidentally become aware of your Facebook page – tell them! The direct link from your website to Facebook is an important building block here. You can integrate the note “Now also in Facebook” on your website, but also as “PS” in your letter or mail traffic.

What is the regular customer in real business life is the fans or readers in Facebook & Co. Everyone starts out small. Create a Facebook page for your company and publish interesting articles. You can invite your own friends to your page immediately, you can win new fans by cheap advertising on Facebook. If you are registered as a “fan”, you can read your news via Facebook Newsfeed. The more precisely you succeed in meeting the interests of your target group with your content, the faster your readership will grow. Your customers meet on the net, possibly sharing their experiences with your products or services. If you are satisfied, you “share” your content – this is how your core target group helps you to attract new customers. This is like word-of-mouth propaganda.

Always in the picture with Pinterest – perfect for fashion shops, horticultural businesses and the retail trade

You run a fashion business? Are you the owner of a horticultural business? The “picture network” Pinterest can open up interesting perspectives for the retail trade and all industries whose products and offers can be presented visually well. Incidentally, Pinterest is home to an above-average number of women – which is also helpful information for specific industries in order to reach the right target groups. In Pinterest you can post photos and information graphics on pinboards: current offers, new deliveries or – depending on the sector – particularly attractively designed facades or seasonal garden accessories. The pin boards are thematically structured. Here you can quickly and easily identify your potential target groups.

Tip: Especially in Pinterest it is important to be active yourself. If you “subscribe” to bulletin boards that match the core competences of your company or service, there is a very good chance that you will meet people there who are interested in your products and services and then visit you.

Well informed on Google+ – well suited for business blogs and all technical products
Google+ is the social network of Google and is particularly interesting because it is still directly linked to other Google offers. Have you ever thought about presenting your technical expertise in a “business blog”? This is also possible under the “Google umbrella”. Fashion trends from the owner of a clothing store, the latest bicycle trends, wine recommendations from the vintner. An additional service for your customers – and a good opportunity to demonstrate your expertise.

Blogs and specialist forums are an important source of information for many people – and this was the case even before the boom in social networks. Here experts and prospective customers are among themselves, discuss over specialized questions or consult mutually, accordingly high is here the ?target group density? In the dialogue with your customers you can win in addition a good feeling for the requirements of your customers. Additional plus: All activities under Google strengthen themselves mutually. Technical terms, regional anchorage – with appropriate Google search inquiries your possibilities improve of landing in the Ranking of the Google search machine further above.

Tip for Google+: Google’s social network is considered to be “technology-savvy”, with a particularly large number of men active here who are interested in a wide variety of technology topics, from the latest IT developments and cars to technology-based leisure trends. If your business is active in one of these industries, you’re sure to find many users in Google+ who are potentially interested in your products. Here, too, you should link your Google+ presence with other activities – whether analog or digital.

Tie and collar on XING and LinkedIn – well suited for service companies
Service companies want to convince potential customers of their professional competence. The XING and LinkedIn business platforms are ideal for this. Tip: First, a well-maintained, meaningful profile is necessary before you can also search for customers. Then it’s time to find contacts that fit. You could use the search functions of the platforms and write directly to the contacts found by the target groups. However, in almost all cases this is perceived as harassment. There is another good way to find business contacts on XING and LinkedIn. Tip: Share your expertise in groups that fit the topic of your company. Participate in discussions and support those seeking help with your expertise. You will be noticed and the first contacts will not be long in coming.

HOW DO YOU FIND THE RIGHT TARGET GROUP FOR YOUR COMPANY? A SMALL CHECKLIST
No watering can principle
Before you get started with your social media activities, first identify the networks where your potential target group prefers to be. A first check through a mini customer survey is a helpful, direct introduction.

Clattering is also part of the digital craft!
After setting up a social media account for the company, don’t just wait passively for visitors, but actively refer to the social media presence: on the homepage, in the business mail, through print advertising media such as brochures or flyers and, very effectively, in the shop window.

Build up a community with your existing “regular customers”.
It could be that you find your customers by chance – but you should not hope for that. Make an effort from the outset to reach a fixed group of readers. You can start small. If your content is right, your readers will tell. Therefore, your subscribers are the best multipliers to attract more people from their target group.

Observe what happens to your readers
Take a good look at how your readers react to contributions and draw conclusions for the contents of your page. Especially the feedbacks (e.g. the number of likes or comments) give you hints on what potential customers are interested in. Your target group helps you to reach new target groups because you know what information you want.

Stagnation becomes a step backwards
What can I do better? Which requirements have my customers formulated and which information requests can I recognize from comments and likes? Your entire product and service package benefits from the dialogue with your customers: You gain important information for the maintenance and further development of your products.
This closes the circle – from real business life to social networks and back again. Because: Social media marketing is always particularly successful when it is in context: with other websites, with analogue media and with your local presence: networking is everything – even when it comes to the target group!

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