With 96% of SMBs making use of social media in the marketing mix, the question has changed from why use social media to how to use it. Vendasta finds that 90% of marketers believe that social media marketing (SMM) has improved business exposure, while 75% attribute greater traffic to SMM. Clutch.co reports that 61% of SMBs are investing significantly in SMM.

Many other reports tell the same story. Social media is an essential part of the small business marketing program. But how will social media change small business moving forward? Let’s take a look at some of the most important business attributes and KPIs that SMM affects.

Grab your oxygen mask because in this article we’re going all the way to the top!

First thing’s first, in order to run a successful business you must become a kung-fu master at Lead Generation.

Generating Leads

The Content Marketing Institute found that 53% of marketers use social media to create more interactive content for small business lead generation efforts. Going interactive is essential to building the connection with customers that is necessary for information grabs and remarketing efforts. Interactivity reduces bounce rates as well, clearing the path for landing pages to improve their search rankings.

Social media also gives a company the opportunity to introduce social proof into lead generation efforts. If prospects see glowing comments from others in a Facebook comment thread, they are more likely to engage. The comments that flow naturally from social media threads are usually more convincing than traditional push advertising – one comes from an objective third party while the other is produced internally.

Apart from generating leads, another key social media tactic is similar to tactics used in relationships (although not always consistently) – pure and simple: communication.

Communicating with Customers

Social media naturally creates an accessible, convenient two way conversation between customer and company. This is evidenced by the fact that prospects now expect timely communications from companies on social media. In 2013, 72% of people with Twitter queries expected a response within 60 minutes. This number has only increased in more recent years. Across all social media today, 84% of customers expect an answer from a small business in an hour.

Today’s Millennial consumers expect more communication because they view the relationship with companies much differently from Baby Boomers and Generation X. These older generations preferred more of an “in and out” aesthetic, possibly because they did not have many choices among the local stores that they frequented. Baby Boomers did not have the Internet for the majority of their lives. Generation X is not as attached to it as the Millennial generation, because X can remember a time without social media or the Internet.

Yes, small businesses must pay close attention to the narrative of younger clients on social media. Millennials are on course to control the largest wealth transfer in history – more than $68 trillion in the United States alone. They are also rapidly becoming the dominant consumer in the commercial world. This is true of the B2C and B2B small business narratives, because companies are now hiring Millennials in decision making positions as Boomers retire. As Nielsen reports, 85% of these people own smartphones with installed social media platforms and use them as a primary tool of buying and selling.

Okay, you’ve communicated with your customers. What about them actually paying you for your services? That’s what you can also use social media for…

Customer Payments

Drawing users to the end of your small business sales funnel and then having multiple steps before they can buy from you is one of the fastest ways to lose customers. There are many other pricing page surprises that can easily disengage your prospect before conversion. Full engagement does not occur until the buyer actually hits the “Pay Now” button. A huge percentage of them are more than willing to abandon the checkout process at the eleventh hour with no problem at all. Most prospects are evaluating multiple options online simultaneously, especially if your brand is not well known to them before they begin the search process. Don’t give them a reason to jump ship.

Social media allows a small business to anchor its prices before the prospect hits the payment page. Without introducing pricing through social media, a prospect is more likely to prematurely exit a small business payment page because of an extra fee or a hidden shipping cost. With anchoring, prospects can be more easily closed. It’s all about setting expectations as a way to build trust early. Trust enables a small business to standby it’s pricing and even make a profit. Prospects, when properly primed, are also more likely to respond to upsells and even last-minute information grabs in the checkout process for remarketing.

A customer’s dollar in your hand, you scamper away never to speak to that customer again. Right? No way! You’re a small business owner, so you must always do the following…

Customer Follow-up

Remarketing, using social media, is one of the highest return on investment (ROI) activities for a company. Modern remarketing is largely automated, requiring no additional manpower in order to implement and scale as your business grows. How important is this follow up? With no follow up, you may be missing as much as 97% of your potential sales. Only 3% of people are truly willing to buy from a first impression. Case studies from AdWords showcase a 161% improvement rate in conversions when compared to social media campaigns with no remarketing involved.

Social media makes follow up incredibly easy. With a properly managed social media presence, your company has a double edged follow up strategy – automated remarketing as well as direct, ongoing communications. Continuously engaging a happy customer through social media also turns that person into a public advocate that gives you the digital version of social proof. New prospects are much more likely to engage when they view positive comments from a previous customer who seems happy. Savvy companies increase this engagement even more by deputizing these customers, empowering them with incentives, discounts, and exclusive access that they can share with other potential customers within their network.

Remember, humans are tribal animals and tribes communicate and recommend things to each other all the time. Speaking of recommendations, keep the following in mind as well…

Reviews Online

Reviews are becoming a more important part of search rankings. Most notably, Google has been found to scrape reviews from Yelp and use those results as a factor in organic search results. Google apparently has the ability to do this regardless of Yelp’s cooperation, which means that you cannot hide from bad reviews through SEO. The solution? Companies need to handle customer service issues before they become serious enough to warrant a negative Yelp review.

One of the best ways to re-engage an unhappy customer is through social media. Many customers will voice their discontent on Facebook or Twitter before memorializing their negative experience permanently on Yelp. Savvy companies should take advantage of this – use this short window of time wisely. The response rates for Facebook and Twitter mentioned above are not just for bragging rights. Getting to your unhappy customers within an hour may actually save you a great deal of money in PR and reputation management expenses.

Protip: The Google search algorithms have the ability to distinguish between positive and negative reviews. Although Google has not confirmed this, there is strong indication that negative reviews will become more impactful as time goes on.

By the way, it’s not just the public reviews that influence your business online. Folks like to talk to each other privately on social media as well, which is why you must keep in mind:

Word of Mouth Recommendations on Social Media

It was implied above, but here I state it directly: Social media is the new word of mouth for small business. Even celebrity associations do not mean as much as recommendations that come from inside a trusted social circle. In the United States, 83% of people have expressed this preference, according to Daniel Lemin and Jay Baer’s “Chatter Matters: The 2018 Word of Mouth Report.”

Word of mouth is much easier to generate on social media for a small business, especially those without a huge marketing budget. Companies no longer have to solicit these recommendations through surveys or report them after holding expensive and time consuming focus groups. With a great product and a great sales funnel, customers will naturally find their way back to the comment thread. Companies may also use remarketing techniques that are geared towards soliciting positive recommendations without spending huge amounts of money on the process.

As if that wasn’t enough, folks are also communicating directly about your business (whether on social media or not):

Referrals

Finally, social media helps companies generate hard referrals for companies that use the medium correctly. Customers can easily tell friends, family and business associates about a business through a convenient, accessible communications platform. It is much easier for a new prospect to seek out reviews online than to call for referrals or trust the word of a store employee.

So that’s it! A compelling list of reasons why you, as a small business owner, MUST have social media marketing in your tool belt.

As social media continues to proliferate the small business market, you can bet that SMM will continue to change that market even more over time. Consider the analysis above to put some real distance between you and your competition in terms of your visibility and credibility online.

Like this article? You’ll love our guide on how to generate leads for service businesses in 2019, and of course our Frustrations with Square article!