“5 things small businesses can learn from big business social media campaigns”

This morning, a newsletter linked me to a preview article on OPEN Forum (an American Express sponsored business resource website).  It’s a no-nonsense list of useful social media tips that are relevant to SMEs (small t0 medium enterprises) and show you that you don’t need to be flashy to make good use of the new opportunities in social media. Read on for the full article:

You don’t need to look far to find big brands using social media.  From Coke to Rubbermaid to Chick-fil-A, corporate America is jumping onto sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to communicate and interact with customers.  In doing so, they’ve exposed both good and bad strategies for implementing social media, teaching us all lessons that are applicable to multi-national corporations and one-man shops alike.  Here are a few key takeaways from recent experiments in social media.

Good Customer Service = Good Marketing: There are too many examples to name, but the benefits of offering customer service via Twitter are truly remarkable.  Smart brands monitor the microblogging tool to see whenever someone mentions their company, and respond to issues publicly.

At the least, they point customers in the right direction of where they can get help.  At best, the customer publicly voices their satisfaction with the company’s valuable help, creating a snowball effect of goodwill as this practice grows.  Companies often cited for their exemplary use of Twitter in customer service include Zappos, Comcast, and Whole Foods.

Tell Your Customers What to Do: Like any good promotion, effective social media marketing needs a call to action.  And because we’re dealing with technology, that call to action needs to be very specific.  That’s why Land Rover’s recent campaign to gain buzz at The New York Auto Show was a smart one.

The company instructed patrons – both at the show and online – to use the special identifier (known as a hashtag) #lrny on Twitter to discuss the company’s new vehicles.  The result was an aggregated view of all of the tweets about Land Rover’s presence at the show, and free advertising for the company across Twitter.

Free Stuff Can Expand Your Reach – Quickly: Since the early days of the web, not much has worked as well in promotions as the promise of free.  The same goes in the world of social media, where promotions can quickly be used to gain fans and followers on services like Twitter and Facebook.  The restaurant chain Maggiano’s recently offered a $100 gift card to one random person who tweeted “Follow @Maggianos by 5pm CST to be entered to win $100 in Maggiano’s gift certificates,” during a given time frame.

The result?  Maggiano’s gained over 2,000 followers in a single day.  While this obviously is easier for a national brand to pull off than a local small business, special promotions that speak to your audience can be as much of a slam dunk in social media as they can be in the offline world.

Transparency Works: Moms are one of the most important demographics for General Mills to reach, and they spend a fortune to do so through traditional marketing.  In the world of social media, however, they’ve gone much more grassroots, recruiting bloggers to join their MyBlogSpark program.  The company sends the bloggers – who are all in their target demo – free products and has them review them.

In doing so, they require the bloggers to disclose that they received the products for free, which eliminates the dreaded conflicts of interest that can arise whenever products of monetary value are exchanged.  Moreover, when moms don’t like a product, General Mills encourages participants to contact them first, helping the company gain feedback and potentially avoiding unnecessary negative reviews.

The lesson here is pretty clear: put your product in the hands of key influencers and let them share their thoughts about it publicly.

Know Your Audience: Sometimes, social media campaigns can go wrong.  This is especially true when trying to force the issue of viral video.  Pain reliever Motrin attempted to make a splash with video, but instead ended up insulting the same audience that General Mills has found success in reaching.  In essence, the company’s video tried to portray “wearing” your baby (the slings and pouches that are increasingly popular) as a fashion statement.

Not being a mom (obviously), I didn’t exactly get the humor, though I didn’t initially find the ad offensive either.  But the reaction from actual mothers was intensely negative, with thousands of tweets and blog posts expressing outrage over the campaign’s snarky tone.  The lesson in this is pretty clear in hindsight: if you’re going to be trying something edgy, make sure you test your concept with people that are actually in your target demographic.  And if you have any second thoughts about what you’re about to publish, simply don’t do it.

In essence, much of mastering social media marketing is no different than mastering traditional marketing, except everything is amplified because it’s on the Web and infinitely shareable.  Thus, it’s absolutely essential to be honest, precise, and thoughtful with every action you take – because everyone is watching, and both the successes and the failures will be magnified.

What do you think? Will you be making use of social media in your marketing strategies? Leave comments here!

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One Comment on ““5 things small businesses can learn from big business social media campaigns””

  1. Subba Says:

    My comments here are based on my experience in the Restaurant, Hospitality and Service industries. So far, these businesses have been using Email Marketing for customer loyalty and retention and brand development. Mobile marketing has gained lot of traction in the last few years. Social Media Marketing has been new to this industry and marketing departments are scrambling to catch up to it.

    I founded a company Sterizon that now specializes in bringing Email, Mobile and Social Media Marketing in a single package right to the customer doorstep while the customer is at the place of business. We do it using a wireless, WiFi handheld gadget called Sterizon wiZit.

    Social Media is here to stay, so, businesses might as well embrace it and use it to their advantage.

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