Put up your hands if you believe that referrals from satisfied customers is one of the most reliable ways to grow your business?
Great ~ leave those hands up.
Now, if you already have a Facebook page for your business, put your hands down.
Those of you with your hands still raised are passing up an invaluable platform for letting your most enthusiastic and loyal customers refer you to their friends.
Establishing a social media presence, and maintaining it, doesn't have to be confusing or painful or expensive. Eschewing it is the equivalent of leaving growth (and, therefore, revenue) on the table.
The foregoing was the tenor of a recent presentation that Write and Polish gave to our weekly chapter meeting of Business Network International (BNI). BNI, for those unfamiliar with it, is a networking organization whose goal is to pass referrals within a vetted group of businesses. We believe in it, and the success of BNI and other networking groups similarly organized and focused seems to bear out our own positive impression.
It is generally understood and agreed that a satisfied customer can provide the best advertising that a business can hope to have. Testimonials are a standard part of certain marketing pieces. LinkedIn has a recommendations section that works on the same principle.
Some businesses, though they may believe in the power of referrals, do not feel that they need social media. You would be surprised at the number of people in that room, whose BNI membership already testifies to their belief in the long-term return on investment of referral-based marketing, who do not participate in social media.
Businesses with a social media presence of any kind are depriving themselves of a virtual meeting place where their customers and clients can testify for and refer them. It's really that simple. That is a particularly glaring omission for smaller/local businesses that may have a harder time competing against "big box" equivalents.
But, someone will have to update it!
That is one of the objections that we hear. And, yes, it is great to have new and engaging content to keep you looking fresh -- the same as it is important to have new and engaging content on your website (without going into detail, doing so helps your search results). Conveniently, this is a two-birds-with-one-stone situation: add new content to the website and then promote it on Facebook and Twitter (or Tumblr or YouTube or, or, or...).
There are other benefits: engaging in conversation with your prospects helps convert them to clients, and it helps cements loyalty of existing customers.
But the single most important aspect, in our opinion, of a company's social media presence is the ability of your public to behave as friends/fans, checking in and telling what a good experience they have had.
Why is it important?
Not because it makes the proprietor feel good, though it certainly can. After all, each of us appreciates an "atta-boy" every so often. But, really, the key is that fans are complimenting the business "in public," where their own friends can see it. They are standing on the figurative street corner and telling everyone who happens by that a particular plumber gave them great service. Or that a real estate agent went the extra mile for them. And that they found just the right thing at the new shop on Main Street. And that they had a fantastic meal at a particular restaurant. They are referring the business, consciously or unconsciously, to their own friends.
That's the point -- a percentage of your customer's friends will see what and who it is that they are Liking and commenting upon, and stand to be influenced by it. Everyone on Facebook becomes a celebrity endorser in his/her own circle of acquaintance. And it is access to THOSE people, who may not have tried your product or service, yet, that you as a businessperson want. Just as in the three dimensional world, where you should be asking, at the end of a job or transaction, for your customer to refer you to others, social media enables that same referral to happen in cyberspace, right away, and to dozens or even hundreds of people at once.
Write and Polish is happy to consult with small businesses that are not certain how to go about establishing a social media presence, or that don't want to have to fool with doing status updates, but wish nonetheless to reap the not-inconsiderable benefits.
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Christie Manussier, principal Writer and Polisher, is the usual news reporter.
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