How is your holiday social media strategy shaping up?
If you've dabbled with Facebook or sent the occasional tweet, it's time to kick things into high gear. Recently, American Express released survey results that underscore the growing importance of including social media in your marketing mix.
According to the AmEx Spending and Saving Tracker, nearly a quarter of the consumers polled (23 percent) plan to score deals and redeem offers that they discover on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Clearly, consumers are looking beyond email promotions and mailers for their holiday bargains this year.
Here are five tips for attracting those social-savvy holiday shoppers from small business expert and publisher Melinda Emerson.
Need to boost your follower count? Engage in what Emerson calls "friend-raising."
Making friends on Facebook and earning followers on Twitter means that you'll frequently turn the spotlight away from your own business. "You have to share other people's content at a 4:1 ratio of your own," advised Emerson during the inaugural Customer Magnet Series, a small business event recently presented by Pitney Bowes and Google.
While it seems to run contrary to the notion that your marketing efforts should be laser focused on your business, it's a tried-and-true method of reaching influencers and building a loyal social media army.
Give Consumers an Eyeful with Pinterest
"If your business is visual at all, and your business targets women customers, you need to be on Pinterest," said Emerson.
The reason is simple; Pinterest's emphasis on images places product design at the forefront of every interaction on this social network. Therefore, businesses that specialize in merchandise with eye-catching design elements should engage with this community.
So far, it's been a hit in areas like women's apparel, but don't count out other products and services. For instance, if you run a bakery whose cupcakes look as great as they taste, pin it!
Scope out B2B Opportunities
Like consumers, purchasing professionals like to lock in year-end savings. The problem is that they're not generally seeking those opportunities on Facebook and Pinterest.
Emerson refers business-to-business (B2B) and professional services shops to LinkedIn. "The most professional social media site out there is LinkedIn; it is the ultimate B2B source. People who are decision makers are on LinkedIn," explained Emerson.
Need proof? "Seventy-five percent of all professionals in the United States have a LinkedIn profile," said Emerson.
To reach purchasers, Emerson suggests joining the LinkedIn Groups that pertain to your industry and your target markets. Just remember, keep it professional.
Let's get it out of the way, social media engagement takes time. And as most small business owners can attest, it's the one resource that they absolutely cannot afford to lose.
Fortunately, it doesn't take much of a time commitment to thrive on social media.
"As a small business owner, your time is the most expensive thing that you can give away," said Emerson. "But you can become a very powerful social media brand an hour a day."
Look into social media management apps with scheduling tools. Emerson recommends checking out HootSuite, Sprout Social and Buffer to get started. They make it easy for busy entrepreneurs to plan the day's tweets early in the morning and walk away.
But don't forget to check in. "You can't just put your accounts on autopilot using the scheduling tools," warned Emerson. Carve out a few moments throughout the day to follow up and answer questions.
Build a Great Website
It all circles back to having an engaging, user-friendly website. "If you don't have a great website, you shouldn't be on social media," said Emerson bluntly. "Your website is your home base; it's your welcome mat."
Social media is your front gate. Sure, it may seem inviting, but if customers peer beyond and glimpse a wreck of a website, you just demolished that positive first impression. In short, don't build up your social media footprint at the expense of your own website.
After all, the point of social media is to drive traffic to your own site and rack up sales. If your website is poorly implemented and ill-equipped to handle the needs of potential customers -- many of which may reach it on a mobile device -- then all those Facebook updates and Tweets are a waste of time.
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