Westvyne social media talking bubblesIt’s no secret that social media isn’t free. Even though Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and other platforms don’t charge users to open accounts or place fees on monthly data usage, it still costs your company to participate in social media in the form of resources (people) and time. If your business is small, then chances are that answering tweets, making status updates, and commenting on industry blogs is something you juggle with your “real,” revenue-generating work. That means any time siphoned off from the customer-facing parts of your work is an opportunity cost.

Are you getting the most out of your investment?

Before you go and delete all of your social media accounts and rue the day you finally figured out how to use Twitter, cheer up. The savvy marketer can use social media to actually get ahead in business, too. The key is knowing what really matters to your business and moves the revenue needle.

A few ways social media saves or earns business:

Earn credibility. To write this post, I took a quick poll of Twitter users to find out how social media had benefitted their business. One person (a Realtor) responded, saying (paraphrased) “Getting to know someone on Twitter is a low-risk way for a prospect to get comfortable with me and build confidence before committing to professional services.” For the Realtor, using Twitter and monitoring target key phrases (like “new house” and “selling house”) lets her connect with qualified prospects in her area. She then gives them simple advice or points them to useful resources, and in doing so demonstrates the kind of helpfulness that lowers barriers to customer acquisition.

Future proofing. Some companies may conclude that social media isn’t a core part of their marketing strategy, but want to have a respectable presence. These days, a restaurant without a Facebook page or Foursquare account could be missing out on some valuable customer feedback. It may pay dividends to maintain a consistent, low-fidelity level of activity (status updates, polls, photos, etc.) while determining just how active and interested your target customers may be. Then you can ramp up (and allocate resources) or down accordingly.

Build goodwill. If you use Twitter or Facebook to discover customer inquiries or complaints online, you have the opportunity to let those 1-to-1 discussions affect 1-to-many. Forget your natural inclination to take a minor complaint or concern offline (hidden). Address it truthfully, with as much humility and good nature as possible right there in the open. In many cases, your very “human-like” approach can dismantle the tension to turn a complainer into an advocate. The good thing about advocates? They readily recommend you to their friends.

In what ways has social media saved or earned you business?