As small business owners, we sometimes get in the habit of using our social media accounts just to broadcast news about our brands. While social media can be useful for keeping interested parties in the loop, keeping the conversation entirely one-sided means you’re missing out on other ways to interact with your target markets. So who should you be talking to on social media and how should you engage them:
People who might or have purchased your products are an important audience and you don’t want them to feel like all you do is sell to them. You can use social media to let customers see what goes on behind the scenes, share content both you and your customers might find interesting, engage customers in shaping your product line. Here are a few examples of how you might do some of this:
- A clothing designer shares an inspiration board from a recent product design on her blog. She then posts a note on Twitter and Facebook letting customers know about this new entry and invites them to give feedback. She also shares her inspiration board on Flickr, so Flickr users can provide feedback there.
- A jewelry designer, who focuses on bridal jewelry, blogs about an article discussing the merits of big and small weddings from an online wedding magazine, and then asks her customers which they plan to have and why.
- A skincare company is working on coming up with new fall fragrances, the company owner asks fans on Twitter to tell her what scents remind them of fall.
All of these actions invite the customers to get to know the creators behind the brands and even let the customers take part in shaping the brands.
Although peers are not a primary audience for your social media efforts, there can be some advantages to networking with peers via social media. You might want to engage fellow artisans or small business owners to engage in some cross-promotion or collaborations. Here are some examples of how this could be done:
- An illustrator who knows a t-shirt maker via a message board, contacts the t-shirt maker via private message to ask if the printer would like to print some of her drawings on her t-shirts.
- A handbag designer follows and is followed by artisans that design jewelry and shoes on Twitter. She sends a message using the @ symbol to these fellow business owners to ask them if they’d like to share the cost of an ad in a magazine.
- An invitation designer who sells wedding invitations asks a wedding photographer, a florist and a jewelry designer to take part in a blogging meme about winter wedding ideas. As each company posts their articles, they link to each others’ websites.
3. Media, Sales Reps, Etc.
Another audience to consider in social media are professionals who might in some way help your business. This could be press, well-connected sales reps, a buyer for a retail chain you’d like to get a wholesale account from. Social media is a great way to get on their radar. Some examples of how this might work:
- A catnip toy designer Googles the names of some writers who work for Cat Fancy. She sees that a few of them have Twitter accounts and follows them and sends a hello saying “I liked your article in Cat Fancy. I look forward to reading about your upcoming articles.” Now they’re aware of her and will hopefully follow her back. Even if they do not, she can use Twitter to see if they mention what articles they have coming up so she can pitch them her products.
- A home decor maker meets a sales rep at a trade show. She decides to look her up on Linked In after the show and chat with her about possibly representing her line.
Today’s post is part of a series of posts on social media. For the next week and a half, fellow bloggers will be sharing secrets to using social media for small business success. You can follow along and get more details on the series here. Participating bloggers include: Blacksburg Belle, The Artists’ House, Big Thinking for Small Businesses, heartmade, Miss Malaprop, Madeline Bea, Imaginative Bloom, and Jessica Swift.
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