Social Media: The New Marketing Opportunity For Small Businesses

Two women dressed in business casual clothing smile as they show each other social media marketing for small businesses.

Pop-up ads, email blasts, and SMS marketing aren’t the only ways to drive traffic to your e-commerce site. Social media is a powerful way to attract new customers.

Social media platforms have become an integral part of society. Facebook has 2.5 billion monthly active users, and Instagram has more than 1 billion subscribers. So using those most popular platforms means a business can reach a huge new audience.

Marketing on social media isn’t a slam dunk every time. It takes effort, trial and error—as well as luck. But for businesses who are strategic in their social media marketing efforts, the payback can be transformational.

Social Media Matters to Businesses of All Sizes

The world has gotten used to sharing, liking and retweeting every aspect of their lives on social media. It’s also becoming a popular way to research and purchase products, which means businesses need to be engaged on the platforms where they're being discussed. A recent survey found that of the more than 3 billion social media users around the world, 54% are using it to research products. Many of those searches result in purchases.

As the economy becomes more global, businesses can use social media to expand their customer base domestically and internationally without having to spend a lot of time and money on traditional marketing. They can even target their efforts to specific demographics, increasing the odds of reaching potential customers.

Go Viral to Create Buzz

Standing out on the crowded field of social media can be difficult. The majority of small businesses incorporate social media into their marketing efforts to varying degrees. Consumers, as a result, are inundated with ads and information online. Getting them to click on your product can be hard to do.

That's where businesses need to get creative in order to capture attention. A business that is able to "go viral" through a highly-engaging video, image or other post can reach scores of potential customers for free.

But it requires skill and strategy to grab the spotlight. Beyond a catchy headline or attention-grabbing post, content that successfully goes viral connects with viewers on an emotional level. People share it because they relate to it, or it evokes a feeling and the urge to act. Your content should be focused on those topics that you know your audience will relate to.

And be careful: The messaging has to be genuine in order for it to resonate with the masses. If it’s overly promotional or the number of posts is bordering on spam, you'll wind up turning off new and existing customers.

Avoid going for shock when creating content as well. It may get you some initial attention but it can harm your reputation and thus your long-term prospects. Stay clear of the topics that could offend the people you’re trying to reach or hurt your reputation with the public.

Grow Your Following

The key to effectively marketing on social media is to get people to follow you. The more followers you have, the more business may come your way.

There are several ways to boost engagement numbers, and it all starts with being a good follower yourself. The more people you follow, the more who will follow you back in return. Think of it as digital networking. You might start by following users who are relevant to your industry. By following them, you'll get access to their networks of potential customers and associates.

To keep your followers engaged, as well as find new ones, you have to give them a reason to keep on coming back. That means maintaining a regular feed of posts, shares, and thoughts that are valuable, actionable, and spur engagement.

Become an Expert in Your Field

Consumers and business customers alike want to work with people who are experts in what they do. Social media can help you establish a reputation as a leader in your industry—and the increase in business that comes with it.

To achieve expert status requires commitment on your part. That can mean becoming an active member of your industry’s business community, joining associations, volunteering, and speaking at industry events. On social media, it means sharing actionable content, penning informative blog posts, and engaging with customers on a regular basis. The end game is to create a strong and authoritative voice online, so you're the one audiences turn to.

Social media is an effective way to market to a vast audience of people. Small businesses are in a unique position because of the ability to target specific audiences on these platforms without spending much in terms of cash. But It can also be time-consuming, complicated and for some, intimidating. If you don’t think you have the wherewithal to become a social media maven, consider outsourcing the endeavor to a social media-savvy employee or a marketing firm. It will cost you, but if you are able to achieve social media marketing success, it will be money well spent.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank, National Association, and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank, National Association or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank, National Association, Member FDIC.