A Social Marketing Game Plan for Small Businesses

Eric Binnion —  October 17, 2012 — 4 Comments

In the past few years, social marketing has emerged as an absolute power tool in marketing. But, social marketing has become even more important to local businesses who can take advantage of this marketing channel at little to no cost! This is a godsend for small/startup businesses with limited capital.

As with most things, if you want to use social marketing for free, then you should be willing to put in some extra work. But, if you’re willing to shell out a little (I do mean a little) cash, then you can find some awesome tools to help you be more productive with social media.

Social Marketing Game Plan Overview

I personally believe that it is an absolute oversight for any company not to take advantage of at least 3 tools available to them currently: Facebook, Twitter, and Newsletters. Why do I think it would be an oversight to not use any of these tools? Because each of these tools are free, or have free options, and they allow you to easily interact with established and potential customers in your area.

Facebook

Facebook Screenshot

In my city, Wichita Falls, I have seen widespread adoption of businesses using Facebook to market to their customers. This makes me happy to see. But, one of the awkward things I have seen is that many local businesses opt to create ‘profile’ accounts as opposed to a business ‘page’. Yes, they are different.

Any person can like a page and then receive updates from that page which allows for instant gratification. A customer would have to send a friend request and wait for a response before interacting with a profile.

Facebook pages also give you more advanced features such as insights (also known as analytics), which will give you detailed statistics about interaction with your company on Facebook, and the ability to embed apps. The second feature is what makes Facebook pages extremely powerful. Through using a Facebook page you can integrate many things, such as: an online store, a sweepstakes, custom designed pages, a gallery, and much more.

Facebook also allows pages to advertise at a reasonable price. You can drill down to specific areas and demographics that will help you get the best ROI for your money. The more narrow you become, the more expensive your campaign becomes though.

Twitter

Twitter Screenshot

For me, Twitter is the power tool of choice for local businesses. But, if you don’t know how to filter the mass amount of chatter that occurs, you likely won’t get much benefit out of it.

For local businesses, what I recommend most is to start with a local search. Try something like this:

near:76302 within:25mi

This search will return all tweets with a 25 mile radius from a zip code in Wichita Falls, Tx. Below is a screenshot of the results I got.

Once you have tweets from your local area, begin to follow those people. You’ll notice that many times you’ll get a follow back, but if you don’t, no worries. Your goal here on Twitter is to build a relationship. You can do this without having followers from now.

The way you’re going to build relationships in your local area is by periodically doing another local search and joining the conversation on anything relevant.

For example: Say you own a bakery and you see that someone tweets that they are starving or taking their loved one out on a date. You might suggest that they come by your bakery for some sweets.

Want another example? Say you work as a manager of an apartment complex and you see somebody is asking about local homes and apartments. Suggest that they come by and get a free tour of your apartment complex. Maybe even offer them a free soda :)

Twitter has much more powerful tools than this, but this is a terrific place for local businesses to start.

Newsletters

Maintaining a relationship through email is possibly the most important tool of these three. Email is inexpensive for you. Email is not a cluttered as a social networking feed, so there is a greater chance that your message will be seen. A well done email can see anywhere from a 20-35% open rate, whereas I am currently seeing about 12% of fans seeing my content on a Facebook page I manage. Newsletter technically aren’t social marketing, but they are incredibly effective, affordable, and they usually can be integrated with social marketing.

There are both free and cheap options available. Mailchimp is a great newsletter service that allows you up to 2,000 subscribers for free. For many local businesses, this is much more than you need. If you are extremely strapped for cash, this is the way to go.

For customers that are willing to spend between $15-25 per month, I would recommend GetResponse for the extra features they offer. Check out this screenshot below for some of the more powerful features of GetResponse.

GetResponse Screenshot

One of my favorite are the 1,000 free stock photos that are included! Talk about amazing looking emails :) GetResponse also has features that will include social sharing buttons within your email so that your subscribers can easily spread your email for you.

As far as how to use the newsletter, please allow me to make a few recommendations. Do send out 1-4 emails per month. This is enough to keep a relationship intact with your customers. Don’t try to sell your customers every email. Try to provide good information and value as often as possible. And if you notice that you are getting unsubscribes, back off a little bit.

Social Marketing Power Tools

In my opinion, the downside to social marketing is that it is time intensive. But, that is the tradeoff for being cheap. Thankfully, there are tools that can make your life easier.

BufferApp

BufferApp Screenshot

Social media is inherently time-consuming because you have to consistently post interesting information as well as get involved in conversations as others. If you didn’t have any tools, you would have to login several times throughout the day to be able to post new information. This interrupts the flow of your day and can be counter productive.

I use a tool called BufferApp that allows me to automatically schedule content in advance by clicking a few buttons. Buffer allows you to easily set up a queue that will post your content throughout the day. Buffer comes with built in posting times, but you can tweak these to your needs.

BufferApp has a free option that allows you a few social accounts and a small queue. For just $10 per month you can get up to 12 social accounts and unlimited posts. Not too shabby, eh ;)

BufferApp has been a huge time saver in my social media routine. I recommend this tool to any person managing at least one social media account.

TweetDeck

TweetDeck is the social media marketing power tool that I’d like to mention here. TweetDeck is a piece of software you can download on your computer that will automatically refresh your Twitter accounts and will also let you create columns that show certain information besides your timeline.

One of the best uses for this is to create a column that will display all local Tweets and automatically refresh. Here’s a screenshot below of that.

TweetDeck Screenshot

Notice how the column on the right includes that local Twitter search we talked about earlier. TweetDeck also includes some future scheduling functionality, but it seems a bit clunkier than BufferApp’s functionality.

I would definitely recommend TweetDeck to anyone that requires viewing multiple Twitter accounts or searches.

Conclusion

Social media marketing is not easy, but it’s well worth it when you consider the time costs. Above all else, try to be genuine and add to the conversation. Being interesting and likable will take you quite a ways in social media.

If you have any questions about social media or how to use the tools I recommended, please leave a comment below and I will gladly reply back.

Eric Binnion

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This post was written by Eric Binnion. When Eric is not online, he is usually volunteering in his community or enjoying time with his family. You can find Eric on Twitter.

4 responses to A Social Marketing Game Plan for Small Businesses

  1. Hi there! I just wish to give an enormous thumbs up for
    the great info you have here on this blog. I’ll be coming back in your web site for further information in the near future.

  2. I totally agree with you when you said that this is unavoidable nowadays ! You let me through your post to get much more evidence to show this with compelling arguments.

  3. I like these tips you have presented for marketing a small business because I agree that with the right social tools social media marketing can really do great things for a business website or blog.

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