Offline businesses the world over are embracing social media marketing as an important part of marketing offline businesses online. Done right, social media and social networking can create a huge jump in foot-falls and bottom-line profits – but mishandled, social media can be the death of your offline business as well.
No longer something businesses can simply choose to ignore, sites like Google+, Twitter, Facebook and the myriad of industry-specific forums and directories now represent ever-increasing market share influence. And unlike earlier methods of advertising your offline businesses, social media sites offer free ways for small businesses and home-based businesses to compete with global corporations on an almost-level playing field.
But it also represents pitfalls that most businesses haven’t had to face before too – pitfalls that can irreparably impact your business and, in extreme cases, ruin your brand, product or even the business itself. Reputation management has become a vital part of both local businesses and global corporations now that the Internet has so heavily affected the business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketplaces.
How Effective Social Media Marketing Helps Offline Businesses
Well over a billion people use social media these days – many of them using multiple platforms daily or at least weekly. This presents a quickly- and easily-accessed global market comprised of a great number of subsets representing both local markets and niche-specific markets. Never before have businesses had instant access to such large numbers of targeted prospects, nor to free ways to access those prospects.
This scenario offers a number of advantages to businesses using social media effectively: announcing new product rollouts, ease of customer service, brand management, reputation management, customer involvement and interaction, notifications of sales and other events, building goodwill and announcing charitable affiliations, real-time competitor marketing analysis, community-building within your target market and positioning your business to be found by those looking for your products or services. This last point is especially important when promoting local businesses online, as more and more consumers are using the Internet to find local services and stores, especially when on mobile devices.
How Ineffective Social Media Marketing Hurts Offline Businesses
The biggest potential disaster for offline businesses vis-a-vis social media marketing is not having a presence on at least the big sites like Google+, Twitter, Facebook, etc – even more specialized sites like YouTube and Pinterest. Your competition will be keeping their name and brands front-and-center in your target market’s minds, while you’ll be out of sight and out of mind.
Second most harmful is not paying attention to your online reputation. Not responding to customer enquiries or complaints, not dealing with negative concerns regarding your company, brands or even your industry in general can erode your customers’ and prospects’ trust – and trust is a huge factor in today’s commerce and business worlds.
Publicly discussing contentious issues on your business pages will also alienate portions of your audience. Leave topics like religion and politics for the dinner parties and focus your online activities around your company, brands, industry and related organizations important to your audience. Mentioning that you made a donation to a local charity can be beneficial, but discussing the conditions in your community that led to the need for that charity is best left to the local newspaper and television editors and columnists.
Social media marketing is just one aspect of promoting local businesses online, albeit a very important one. Get familiar with both the huge popular sites and those specific to your niche or your local area and start building your presence and reputation on each of those. If you feel you lack the necessary skills or the time to handle your online presence effectively then hire social media marketing specialists to handle it for you – and if you’re a local business, be sure they have recent relevant experience in marketing local businesses online as well.