small business ownerSocial media is not just for big business, it’s for everyone. Sure, it’s scary and new and HUGE and puts a lot of your business message into the hands of others, but the benefits far outweight the cost if you can use social media efficiently. If you do, you can grow your customer base, garner incredibly loyal customers, and even keep up on what your customers are doing, what they’re interested in, and where they’re shopping.

 

When Suzy Q makes an appointment for a haircut, it’s easy to jump online and see what she’s been doing on Twitter. Has she been following your business online? Has she contacted you on Twitter, created conversations about your business, or talked about hairstyles online? These are things that you can talk about when she comes in. Perhaps she tweeted on Monday that she was thinking about changing her hairstyle, and on Wednesday when she came in she didn’t mention it right away. What a great opportunity to bring up some new styling ideas!

 

Maybe you happened to be on Twitter when Suzy Q was talking about her hairstyle preferences, so you were able to jump in on her conversation and provide some ideas and pictures before she even came in! I guarantee you that Suzy Q will tell her friends about your salon, as well as become an incredibly loyal customer because of your online suggestions and proactive approach.

 

“But it’s too time consuming” – True, it can be a bit time consuming, but there are tricks to the trade. As with every trade, there are secrets and programs that you can use to be more productive in less time.

 

“I don’t understand. Who sits online all day” – While this may seem like what people are doing, in reality so many people don’t even go to Twitter.com, or Facebook.com. Mobile applications are making it easier than ever for people to be on these networks all day, every day, without even going to the websites. And, as mentioned above, there are programs that are available that monitor Facebook and Twitter for you, so that you never even have to go to the actual sites.

 

social media small businessWhen a complete stranger updates their status with; “Just got the best haircut ever! Luv this place!”  Every single friend of theirs is going to see that and wonder where Suzy Q just got her haircut. If you offer an incentive for her to say something on Twitter, she’ll do your advertising for you at NO COST!! How can you lose when customers do your advertising?!

 

“I don’t want customers and clients to have control over the message. What if they say something bad” – It’s going to happen. When you put the message out there, open your business to the masses, you are going to lose certain controls. There are those that won’t take any steps forward for fear that a step forward could mean two steps backwards. And yes, it could mean that, but it won’t. Small business owners need to be in control of their products, the way their message is portrayed so that they can stay in business. As a small business owner myself, I completely understand that. However, you have got to let it go a bit in order to grow.

 

When a former customer or client decides to say something about your business, you have to respond. In reality, the only person that is getting hurt when bad things are said is the person who is saying them. No one likes negativity, even on the social networks. Respond with a “how can I fix this” or “what can we do to repair this relationship.” In the end, your business is not the one who looks bad. You take the criticism, soak it in, and offer solutions. If your nemesis does not take to your responses, you are the one who looks like the bigger person for stepping up and trying to alleviate the problem and everyone will see that.

 

Don’t be afraid of criticism; use it to your advantage. In the end, it gets your business name out there even more. What’s the old saying? No press is bad press.  In many cases, negative opinions or status updates regarding your business can turn into positive exposure and profits.

 

So the question appears to be not why use social media, but how to get your current customers to talk about you them? How do you get Suzy Q to do your free advertising? You have got to think outside of the box and ‘get with it,’ so-to-speak. Perhaps you want to offer a free haircut for every Social Media referral they send your way. Perhaps you want to do a punch card and for every tweet they post about your business, or every potential referral they give you , could be a punch and ten punches is a free haircut.

 

Giving your customers incentive to talk about you on the social networks can be as easy as offering Twitter Only or Facebook Only specials. Perhaps you offer a Twitter special that requires a retweet to get a 10% discount. Or perhaps you offer a Facebook special that requires you bring in 10 Facebook friends for that 10% discount.

 

The possibilities are truly endless, and that’s what’s so amazing about social media. With the millions upon millions of people on Twitter, and with Facebook beating out Google for the most visited website, your local following could be massive. Use your imagination, experiment, and don’t be afraid of the outcome. As long as you always take the high road, you will be seen as the bigger person and a better company for it.