Making a startup into a successful small business venture requires more than an entrepreneurial heart and willpower. It takes a loyal base comprised of engaged, connected customers and clients to help a business go from start up to sustainable.
In other articles and discussions, IP WatchDog has touched on building and improving a solid company website and networking off line, but what about online networks? What have you done lately to engage potential clients that find your company page online? Are you putting a priority on these efforts as well? If not, now is the time to get serious.
To be clear, online customer engagement starts with targeted blogging and social media efforts that are linked and regular. The following are some of the statistics that demonstrate the importance of this combination for a small business looking for consistent, targeted growth.
Social media is the number one activity online. Social networks are where the majority of your customers and target customers spend most of their time. Today more than ever, customers are looking for connections; they want to understand the values of the brands with which they interact and to know where they stand on critical issues. They want a relationship before any transaction takes place.
It gets even more impressive when you dive deeper into the statistics. 92% of businesses have acquired a customer through Facebook or another social network. Furthermore, for each single follower or fan that is acquired, 34 more reachable friends are made aware through the power of social sharing. The power of online engagement is limitless in the most literal sense of the word.
Methods for Increasing Engagement
Because Facebook currently has 1.2 billion users and stands as the largest social network in existence, and because blog content is the best way to interact with users on Facebook, methods for increasing engagement for a small business should center around these efforts, especially in the beginning. Here are are a few ideas to get started.
1. Build a Following
To begin engaging an audience, you must have an audience. Once you build a Facebook page, start reaching out to your existing business email list. Invite them to “like” your page. Offer incentives for those who share your page on their own walls. Join groups on Facebook that are related to your industry and invite members to check out your new page. By consistently taking the time to ask, your brand’s following will increase steadily.
2. Make a Point to Interact
Take the time to recognize your page’s followers. Ask questions regarding their experiences and what they’re looking for. Ask them if they have questions and post answers on a regular basis. Share testimonials. By interacting on a one-on-one basis, in a public forum, you’re adding personality to your brand and inviting your followers to get to know you and your small business on a more personal level. This is a critical ingredient for successful engagement.
3. Offer Rewards
It’s no secret that we live in a rewards-driven society. People want to know what is in it for them before making an effort, especially as it pertains to online communities. Because of this, many brands rely on a system of special offers and rewards. Not every reward needs to revolve around a giveaway or prize. Think about tips that could help your target market and start a “Tip of the Week” feature. Consider what your potential customers find to be valuable and adjust your strategy accordingly.
4. Create Solid Content
There’s no way to avoid it; content creation and sharing must be a part of your business plan if you expect visitors to return to your site. By taking the time to create blog posts—on your website—that are shared on Facebook, you’re driving traffic from one location to where you want it to go, to your site with the possibility of increased conversions. Think about questions you’re asked regularly and write posts that provide detailed answers. Think about the keyword research you’ve done—if you have not, check out Google’s Keyword Planner—and write content that addresses your desired search terms without sounding stuffed. Include research and statistics along with links to other sites. In doing so, you’ll be setting your brand up as a trusted source of information; trust leads to action; action leads to conversions; conversions lead to a growing small business and loyal customers that stand behind it.
5. Measure your Efforts
Increasing engagement should be part of a strategy, not a series of actions blindly undertaken in the hopes that something good will result. Instead, measuring results—made simple with Facebook’s administrative toolbar for page managers—should be a weekly or monthly activity. Take the time to look at what posts have gotten the greatest response, the highest number of comments or the most shares. Note when those posts were shared and what they pertained too. Were they blog links? Photos? Encouraging words? Keep track and modify your strategy to be as successful as possible.
Online engagement should be a focus for any small business looking to stay ahead of the competition. Efforts should be consistent and undertaken with focus. Building a loyal community is essential for taking any business to the next level.
About the Author
James is a freelance writer, photographer and part-time content creator for CJ Pony Parts. Read more articles from James on his blog Infobros.com.