Social media is an important aspect of any online marketing campaign. More than 80 percent of Americans use a social network, spending 23 percent of their online time on them. Facebook and Twitter lead the pack, with Google+ growing since its initial launch. The importance of social media will only increase in 2012.
Many small businesses overlook a powerful tool when they're trying to increase their social media presence-current customers. It's easy to ignore the customers you already have when you're looking at how to maximize the value of Twitter by seeking new contacts and creating new networking opportunities.
Your current customers already like you. They may want to connect with you on social media sites, if you actively suggest that they do so. Having a Facebook or Twitter icon on your website is a good start, but that's a passive attempt to connect with your customers on social media.
How do you actively recruit your current customers to become fans and followers?
Online thank-you pages
When customers purchase your products or services online, they get a thank-you page. It tells them that their order has been received and gives them all the pertinent details about the sale. This is a perfect opportunity to convert them again, this time into social media followers.
Let your customers know that you have a Facebook fan page and Twitter account and offer exclusive discounts for fans and followers.
If you have a physical location, advertise your online social media presence there. For example, my local mechanic has well-designed flyers on the counter by the cash register offering exclusive discounts to Facebook fans.
I'd never look on Facebook to see if my mechanic has a fan page, but the flyer made me aware of how I would benefit from it. I used my BlackBerry to find the page as I sat waiting for my vehicle. I hit "like" so I wouldn't miss future discounts on oil changes and other routine maintenance work.
Now, those specials show up in my Facebook stream and remind me that I need to get the services done.
However, be clear about how and where on Facebook and Twitter your customers can find you. Our local mall has posters up everywhere asking visitors to follow businesses on Twitter. But not one mentions what their Twitter handle is and I'm too lazy to attempt to figure it out. Make sure it's easy to find you.
Many companies send out an e-mail with a follow-up message following a purchase. If you've shopped on Amazon, you get an e-mail a few days after your shipment has arrived, reminding you that you can rate the seller or review the product.
These after-sale e-mails can convert customers into social media fans. You can follow up with previous customers about their purchase. At the same time, send them a call to action to follow your social media accounts.
Rae Hoffman-Dolan, aka "Sugarrae," is a serial entrepreneur and SEO consultant specializing in SEO audit services and link-building strategies. She is also the co-owner and SVP of marketing for Speedy Incorporation.