If you're not making the time for social media...here's why you should be.
Tweet success: Small businesses turn to social media marketing to build brands
REACHING OUT TO MOMS: Joanne Vivero, left, owner of R & J Baby in Doral, with Marirose Mardeni, R&J’s vice president.
BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN
It's mid-morning and Michael Mendez snaps a photo of the new beer he has just stocked in his convenience store. Within minutes, he posts it on Twitter to his 7,000 followers. If the response is typical, customers will stream in by late afternoon, asking for the rare brew.
Mendez strategically has branded his four Miami-area fuel stations as much more than places for a fill-up. Using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, he has created buzz about craft beers and other products inside the station shop, where the profit margins are higher than at the pump.
“Branding in today’s world is knowing people and relating to them,” said Mendez, whose Mendez Fuel customers often share the photos and spread the word online about his new arrivals.
In recent years, small-business owners like Mendez have turned to social media, email and mobile marketing websites to build visibility for their brands. In 2014, say experts, digital marketing is no longer simply a way to bump up brand awareness: It has become essential. With 73 percent of U.S. internet useres turning to social networking sites and 53 percent of American adults carrying a smart phone, businesses that don’t employ social network marketing may find themselves losing out to the competition.
“If you are counting on your business to generate profit for a while or if you plan to leave it as a legacy for a family member, if you’re not branding and marketing online, you’re being irresponsible,” says Stephen Cabeza, founder of Amplification Inc, a Fort Lauderdale social media marketing company.
At a time when 85 percent of buyers go online to research purchases, successful social media marketing has the potential to generate more traffic to a website, send customers to a retail location, create awareness for a brand and build allegiance. According to a 2014 State of Marketing Report produced by ExactTarget digital marketing firm, 86 percent of the 2,500 global marketers surveyed believe social media is currently or will eventually provide financial return. “With this in mind, we expect to see marketers using social media to better boost their brand with customers,’’ wrote the report’s authors.
Already, more than two-thirds of small business owners are spending more time on social media than a year ago, according to a survey by VerticalResponse, a San Francisco-based company. Indeed, 43 percent of respondents said they spend six or more hours per week on social media activities for their businesses. They are posting to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Google Plus and blogs. But those who do so effectively aren’t just spending hours blasting blindly into the ether.
“Conversation is the new marketing,” said Kellie Kuecha, a Boca Raton life coach who calls herself the Brand Re-Coder. The key, she says, is to consistently post meaningful, authentic content across all of your social channels and get people to trust you and talk about your brand. You want to interact with your followers by replying to direct messages and posing questions and you want to post more of the content that you notice followers like, share and comment on the most. That could include photos, videos, graphics, illustrations or words.
By sparking a conversation, telling your story and offering something special rather than just pitching your product, you have a chance to make your company stand out and chose you instead of a competitor, Kuecha advised. “You have to use social media to attract people into your world. Once you do that, the selling process is easier.”