Social media optimization for small business. What can it accomplish? What exactly can social media optimization (SMO) do for you? The short answer is “a lot.” The longer answer is a little more involved, but don’t worry, we’ve broken it down into a few key areas that all local, referral-based small businesses should care about.
Social media optimization can …
Enhance your referrals. The cornerstone of any healthy small business is a strong referral pipeline. Some people think that word-of-mouth referrals and online social networking are two completely different things. Not true. They are absolutely connected. People’s online social interaction is often an extension of their real-world interaction – a faster, 24/7 way of communicating with people in their personal and professional networks. So if you run a referral-based business, you need to be encouraging those referrals through social media. A good SMO plan can supercharge your referrals by strategically connecting your business, your customers, and hundreds (or thousands) of potential new customers in their networks.
Personalize your outreach. Unless you run a ubiquitous franchise store, your business has a unique identity. That identity has value, and it offers great opportunities for online promotion and SMO. This is particularly true for a business with a recognized personality as part of its identity – for example, a lawyer, a dentist, a physical therapist, a photographer, a surgeon. Don’t lose that identity in impersonal mass marketing. Today, effective outreach is all about personalizing communications to individuals. Social media optimization helps you maintain your personal connection to your customer base. It’s all about talking with your customers instead of shouting messages at them.
Show up in personalized searches. When people search for a business online, the connections of their social networks strongly influence the results. The general term for this is “social search,” and it’s part of the search engines’ increasing personalization of search results. Basically, search engines want to give you the most personally relevant search results for every query, so they will tap into your social connections to personalize results based on the people, places, and businesses to which you are connected. With Google+ becoming a bigger force, and with Facebook’s new Graph Search feature, the principles of social search have never been more important. It’s almost as if these social media giants want to get into the business of supplying you with personal referrals (actually, that is exactly what they are doing). And as we discussed above, social media and personal referrals work hand in hand. Ask your SMO company how to craft an online presence that connects you to more people in more meaningful ways.
Focus your local search. Online search is not only personalized, it’s localized. Part of search engines’ emphasis on personalized results is an emphasis on localized results. And guess what; it’s also tied to your social media connections. When possible, they combine a localized search result with a personalized result that takes into account social media connections. So you get a search result that ties into your current location and your social media connections. Google+ Local is a big factor in how companies rank and appear in results. Facebook is becoming a bigger player in this area with some relatively recent changes to how their business pages appear on mobile devices. If you’re using Facebook on your mobile device, and you search for a local coffee shop, they want to show you suggestions that are not only near your current location, but also “liked” by your Facebook friends. It’s like a local giving you a recommendation.
Beyond the social side, there are various local search listings and directories that can help enhance your local search results. A good online marketing company with both SEO and social media knowledge can help you optimize your presence both on the social and local listing side. If you run a business with a physical location, you really want to do this.
Communicate with customers on their terms. Want a wider referral base? Want to enhance your customer service? Try engaging customers in the spaces that they prefer. Businesses that show flexibility in how they interact with their customers are generally perceived as being more customer service oriented. If your customers are commenting about your business on LinkedIn, get on there and interact. If you can respond to customer service issues immediately via Twitter, then do it. Particularly when it comes to complaints, many people just want to be heard, and to know that you are trying to help them. That goes a long, long way in improving the public perception of your business. And if you’re blessed with customers who want to sing your praises on social media, then you’re sitting on a potential 24 karat referral source. Thank that person, interact with her, connect her to more of your network. The trick, especially for small businesses, is managing all of this without spending every second on social media. Don’t worry, there are services out there that can help with this day-to-day social media management for very reasonable rates. A good SMO company should be able to provide these services or refer out for them.
Boost your call to action. Is your website converting prospects into new customers, or is it an online black hole? If it’s not a good conversion tool, then the first thing you need to do is fix your calls to action. Make sure your home page and other key pages tell your visitors exactly how you can help them, and what action they should take to receive that help. Then you can tie these calls to action to a coordinated social media campaign that expands your reach to a much wider audience. Want to assess how this social media outreach is working? Create landing pages for specific campaigns and/or channel traffic from specific social media campaigns to certain pages on your site so you can track the engagement. After all, the ultimate point of all this outreach and communication is to generate more business, right? And yes, you guessed it, a good SMO plan not only drives more traffic to your website, it optimizes your site to increase your conversions.