Earn trust through social media

Luck is on the side of small business owners who want to build a strong online presences, says Samantha Hardcastle, an online marketing consultant and owner of Amore Social. Small businesses don’t need a million-dollar budget and a 15-person team to manage their marketing. But it takes more than luck to create a successful strategy that employs the best combination of social media tools for their specific needs.

Social media marketing is a form of inbound marketing, an approach based on earning a person’s interest and trust rather than buying it. “Make sure the message you’re putting out there has a call to action,” Hardcastle says. The action can be anything that prompts a customer to participate, perhaps sign up for an e-newsletter or a service, download a file, join a group, watch a video, join a webinar, get a free gift, or access an article with useful information.

Content marketing in the form of articles or long blog posts is really big right now, she says. It is a way to earn the trust of your audience by showing them that you understand their needs and interests.

Hardcastle, for example, has posted a blog on her website: “Six ingredients for successful online marketing.” What prompted the article, she says, was an experience in baking cookies. “If you mismeasure one ingredient, your dessert will be a miserable fail. This got me thinking, that baking is very similar to online marketing! If you don’t implement all of the following, your social media campaign will most likely fail,” she says. The first ingredient for a strong campaign, she says, is being able to define your desired outcome:

Ingredient 1: Strong goals: What are you looking to accomplish with social media and online marketing? Please don’t go into social media blind, without any expectations. Here are some very general ideas of what you can do:

Social media can generate more business exposure, increase traffic and improve search rankings, improve relationships and awareness amongst current customers, and find you qualified leads. But social media can’t replace traditional marketing, guarantee sales, deliver results overnight, or be a short term solution.

Once you determine your general goals, you can go on to create more specific goals and figure out what social networks are best to accomplish these goals.

Ingredients 2-6 include consistent branding; time and commitment; original content; loyal customers; and the means for measuring goals.

Social media marketing is long term, she says. You are building relationships with customers, and if they are happy with your service or product, they are likely to recommend you to friends.

“Social media isn’t a fad, it’s here to stay,” Hardcastle says.

Adapted from When a Tweet Hits Your Eye: U.S.1.

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