Your guide to a successful online business!

As a small business owner, you can easily feel dwarfed by some of the larger brands out there- especially when it comes to marketing strategies. You may not have the money or the millions of followers just yet- but you do have one tool that can help you market your business just as effectively as the big companies- social media. By the end of the article, you’ll know all the clever ways that large brands use their social media accounts- and how easy it is to apply the same strategies to your small business.

1. Large brands offer customer service through Twitter and Facebook

Why?

People are getting busier, less patient and more demanding. That means it’s no longer enough to have just a phone line for customers to contact you during office hours. We now need customer service on the go, 24/7 in 140 characters or less!

How?

This might sound a bit daunting, but social media platforms have become a huge part of customer care and it’s important to monitor the channels you use for any interactivity with followers and your business. Answer their questions, help with their queries, listen out for good and bad feedback and apply it.

Here’s a good example of how to handle customer queries by clothing retail store River Island.

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@riverisland 386k followers

When you’re running a small business, it’s understandable that you may not have the time to scour through your social media accounts all day searching for mentions of your business. Luckily, there are many social media management tools you can use to do this for you. You can read about some of the most popular ones here. These can notify you every time your business name is mentioned, helping you to handle customer queries promptly.

2. Large brands get to know their customers

Why?

It doesn’t always have to be so serious. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are great for engaging followers in some chit-chat, making them feel valued and appreciated and allowing you to find out more about your customers.

How?

Take this example from Innocent Smoothies, who are great at engaging their followers.

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Chat with your customers, ask them for their thoughts and opinions or even start a light-hearted debate loosely related to your product like the example above- this simple tweet got 67 replies and 39 likes. Social media also happens to be one of the cheapest forms of PR you’ll ever find. People have the freedom to comment whatever they want on your business’s social media page, with the potential to be viewed by thousands- often leaving you in need of some snappy damage control. If someone does leave an unsavoury comment on one of your posts, here’s a good way to handle it:

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@innocent 232k followers

Something diplomatic and explanatory is the best approach when handling situations like this. It will leave other customers with a better impression of your company despite what may have been said.

3. Large brands post content that their followers will want to share

Why?

It’s simple really- people love to share interesting things with others. This is why step 2 is so important- you need to know what kind of people your followers are and what they find interesting. Chances are, if they’re following your business, they’re going to be interested in things related to your industry.

How?

Never post without purpose! Keep an eye on your target audience and show them things you know will interest them. Posting something your followers want to share is a powerful way to promote your business. Take this article posted by money transfer service TransferWise:

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@TransferWise 29.4k followers

The people following this company have expressed an interest in transferring money by doing so- making this a great article to share with them. It got 132,000 views, 412 likes and most importantly- 168 shares. I’m not the greatest at maths, but I’m pretty sure that equals reaching a lot of new potential customers.

4. Large brands use influencers

Why?

Have you ever bought something because it was recommended to you by a family member or friend? Most people do. This is why larger companies with big budgets splash out on celebrity endorsements- people are more likely take interest in a product if they see their favourite celebrity using it. Unfortunately, not many small businesses have this luxury- but that doesn’t mean you can’t use this concept.

How?

Social media opens your small business up to some people who could be very useful to your brand- we like to call them influencers. They’re people within your chosen business industry with a very high number of followers. Their posts are viewed and shared by a lot of people- who could be potential new customers for you. Finding them shouldn’t be too hard- they could be people who are already following you. For more information on finding your influencers on Twitter, check out this article.

Once you’ve found your influencers, the next step is to encourage them to speak about your product. Interact with their posts and even try to send them a free sample of your product if you can. We’ve got a great guide to engaging your influencers that you can read here.

5. Large brands use their social media accounts to advertise giveaways and freebies

Why?

It’s as simple as this: people love free things. Things aren’t normally free. So when they are- it’s a big deal. Giveaways and freebies are a good way to generate some word of mouth marketing and get people talking about your company. You’re probably thinking it’s a lot easier for large companies who have huge budgets. Check out this example of a huge campaign where UK condiment brand Hellmann’s gave away free burgers and chips:

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@hellmanns 30.2k followers

How?

Before you write this idea off: this is a huge campaign, and it’s important to remember that there are simple and cost-effective things that you could offer your followers. Take this smaller company, an e-commerce brand named Lyst, who decided to give away cappuchinos.

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@lyst 16.6k followers

Even more cost effective, you could surprise a small number of followers with a small gift like children’s debit card provider Osper- who simply sent one lucky follower some sweets and a card- and made her day.

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@osper 1,967 followers

Giveaways and freebies don’t have to be extravagant and expensive like the larger companies. People appreciate the small things too- branded stationary, sweets, fruit and coffee are a few ideas for things you could give away without breaking the bank. Social media is making it easier for the small business to treat their followers too, and it’s a great way to generate buzz and excitement around your brand.

6. Large brands have multiple social platforms- and share on all of them

Why?

It generally isn’t enough to post from just one account if you want to reach a large number of people. Everyone in your target audience will have their preferred media channels, so to make sure none of your posts are missed; it’s a good idea to get set up on a few popular platforms.

How?

Take a look at the example below by futuristic fashion store Cyberdog, who use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram simultaneously to promote their events.

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@Cyberdog 4,221 followers

To ensure your posts get seen by as many people as possible, use as many social media platforms as you can. Any business of any size can use this strategy. Monitoring the results, however, is slightly more difficult when you run a small business. Here’s an article packed with information on how to manage social media efficiently.

7. Large brands allow customer insight into their businesses

Why?

Social media makes it easy to create a community between you and your followers, and being open and honest with them about who you are will allow you to gain their trust. Share photos of how you run your business and the people that make it a working reality. This is what makes your brand individual- it’s your chance to show people why they should use you over another company with a product similar to yours.

How?

It doesn’t need to be a professionally shot photo- simplicity is best. Take dating app Rendeevoo, who posted this photo to their followers. They’re pulling silly faces, having lots of fun- a great message to send to their target audience- most of which should be spontaneous, young singles in London.

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@rendeevoo 2,754 followers

Another way to give customers a closer look into your brand is to support and get involved in local or even national events.

Look up some events that take place in your local business area and see which ones you could get involved in. See this example from Costa Coffee, who chose to support Bristol Pride.

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They used rainbow art in their coffees, but your gesture doesn’t have to be half as extravagant. If you chose to support the same cause, you could so something as simple as placing a rainbow flag in your shop window, or on your social pages. Need more inspiration? You could organise a fun run, or hold a local football match and advertise it on social media. You’ll draw some positive attention to your business, give people a better idea of the company you run and have fun!

So you now know some of the most common social media strategies that large businesses use to create their dazzling marketing campaigns- and are fully equipped to do the same for your small business. Still not ready? For some further reading, check out this article that is full of social media resources to help you on your journey.

Questions? Feel free to contact us via Facebook or Twitter, we’d love to answer them.

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