Does social media actually save you any money?
It can when used correctly.
Most small business owners are experts at leveraging free tools and solutions as they apply to their respective industries. For instance, accounting firms use spreadsheets and software companies leverage open source code. Business owners are also constantly working to get in front of or interact with potential customers. An often overlooked tool to do that (for free) is social media. Small businesses should be sure to incorporate this free asset into their marketing strategy. Here are five ways to leverage social media to save money.
1. Selling products directly on social media
Many social platforms allow businesses to sell products directly from social media platforms. That means, you can sell without an eCommerce website! Avoid having a sales funnel that spans multiple platforms, has to be tracked, and requires regular maintenance.
Popular platforms to do this include Facebook Shop, Instagram Shopping, Pinterest, and TikTok shopping. Note: there are fees associated with transactions although they are minimal.
2. Engaging in social listening to monitor brand, industry, and product trends
Social listening is the “monitoring of your brand’s social media channels for any customer feedback and direct mentions of your brand or discussions regarding specific keywords, topics, competitors, or industries, followed by an analysis to gain insights and act on those opportunities.”
Social listening can be used to track engagement and KPIs using built in tools to develop a better understanding of your customer demographic and what they care about. Gain understanding. Tack metrics passively.
This helps you save money because you can apply free tools to pick up on trends and the composition of your customer base rather than having to pay for reports or studies to be conducted. No audits or agency management. Typically when you think of industry research you think pricey and expensive. But you can find this type of information by applying social listening techniques.
An easy way to get insights into your competitors and what they are doing is by following their social media accounts. Insight without paying for a competitor analysis. You can get a feel for their brand as well as any promotions they are running or updates they are planning to their product/service lines.
3. Source content and research your audience (or at least get inspired)
By interacting with customers and following along with what people are posting about your company (or your competitors), you can determine what products or services they like, what they want to see continued, and what they dislike. Complimentary market research. It’s like a free peek into your target audience’s mind.
Sometimes the easiest way to figure out what your customers want more or less of, is to ask. Outside of a simple question, most social media platforms have built in tools to conduct surveys and see the summarized results. Such as Instagram Polls. While these surveys won’t represent your entire customer base, you can utilize it for brainstorming new content or to see how a new concept might be received. This also drives engagement and shows you are looking to your customers for buy-in and direction. Builds trust and free insight. It’s a win win.
On top of that, you can get inspired by other brands and creators you admire or enjoy. Fuel your social media content creativity free of charge.
In short, by tapping into the free research capabilities available through social media companies can improve content quality, impact, and amount without the price tag of traditional market research.
4. Social Monitoring and Customer Relationships
Active social media users spend nearly 2.5 hours on social networks each day and 78% of consumers agree that social media is the fastest and most direct way to connect with a brand. Every now and then a story will pop up in the news about how frustrated customers took to social media to air their grievances with a company. A great way to demonstrate excellent customer service is by addressing customer complaints and remedying grievances directly within the social platforms.
Sometimes something as simple as reaching out and providing additional ways to get in touch with support can turn what would be a blemish into a win for the company. The payment processor Stripe does this to great effect on a smaller social forum HackerNews. Addressing complaints and providing quick resolutions to problems builds customer confidence in the brand and fosters trust and loyalty.
To take it a step further, make sure to get questions and problems that come up more than once covered in an FAQ or support guide on your website. There are a number of free tools that you can use to monitor your brand across social media platforms. Using social media to engage with customers and head off issues can save you customers business, earn repeat customers, and protect your reputation which will help win new sales.
Communicate changes to business hours or interruptions to service. Post updates regarding changes to regular hours due to weather or unexpected events (a water leak, closure for remodeling and updates, etc). A quick post on your social media could allow you to interact with your customers in a positive way and prevent them from driving across town for no reason. Have you ever had your favorite restaurant shut down for “remodeling”? Or a store you frequent close for inclement weather without any notice? You drive across town needing to grab one or two items from a store you frequent only to find out they are closed thanks to a paper taped to the door. A quick post on social media would have prevented this negative customer experience.
What if you could use social media to build excitement and anticipation for the day you re-open? People love to follow along with stories and feel connected with businesses and brands they love. Leverage project progress as you work to get your store ready to open or reopen. Share a quippy video about impending weather. Whatever it is, use your platform to increase customer satisfaction and curtail negative experiences.
Interact with customers who post positive things about your company to continue to build trust. Improve customer experience by putting yourself in your social media platform. Add personality for your business as opposed to a faceless, voiceless entity. Social media is a free way to manage customer relationships. Build trust. Grow a following. Reduce and eliminate negative customer interactions.
5. Highlighting new products or services:
Social media is the ultimate free advertising tool. Social platforms are a great way to showcase new products or services to your existing customers and followers. Better yet, social posts have the opportunity to get reshared and end up in front of potential clients as well. Rather than paying for traditional and paid digital ads, you can post about it for free. Video walk-through or demos of the products are highly effective on social media and result in increased sales.
You can also run contests and have users take pictures of your product, provide quotes about it, or share your company posts for a small reward. When used correctly this can generate organic content and get your brand in front of more people.
Likely the most obvious use of social media, as a small business owner you should be showcasing your products and services for free to people who are already engaged with your brand.
So does social media actually save small business owners money?
It can if you want it to!
When appropriately configured and leveraged, business owners can use their social media accounts to sell their products, keep up with industry trends, conduct market research, improve customer relationships, and promote new products and services.
Tap into the cost-effective way to market your business and improve strategic business practices with social media.