With Facebook’s recent announcement that it’s going to all but kill the organic reach of brand status updates (although paid promotions will flourish), now might be a good time to appeal to brand advocates for help on social networks.
Small business owners and big brand marketers alike leverage social networks to engage with their target markets, promote virality of content and boost their web site’s authority with search engines using social signals. In fact, with social media’s “free” price tag, it quickly became one of the great equalizers, evening the playing field for small businesses that didn’t have the big advertising budgets of their larger counterparts.
A more even playing field meant that a posts organic worth meant something, no matter whether it belonged to a big brand or a mom and pop shop. That’s a good thing, right?
Apparently, All Good Things Must Come to an End
Although most social networks launched with the hopes of making money by attracting advertisers, it wasn’t long before ads crept off of the edges and into the news feed. Still, unsponsored brand posts could expect to have some organic reach, especially if it received a few likes or shares.
However, the recent announcement of Facebook that brand’s organic posts are going to be all but DOA in terms of reach come January means that the level playing field is tilted heavily in favor of brands with big advertising budgets once again.
But What Can We Do About It?
The answer to this question is what the answer always was. To generate word of mouth marketing buzz, your small business must be buzz-worthy, and must be working to build customer loyalty and advocacy.
An advocate is someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy; therefore, your small business needs to have gained not only customer patronage and loyalty, but must earn and ask for the public support and recommendations it desires, and that goes for brand advocacy on social networks, too.
Provided that your small business has willing, able advocates who are members of social networks (from happy customers to other local business owners to networking groups to your mom, dad, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins), there are ways that they can help your brand’s social media efforts continue to pay off, even if you don’t have the money to sponsor posts or run ads.
But you’ve got to be willing to ask! Brand advocates are busy people too. Even if they genuinely LOVE your business, it might not always be obvious to them that they can directly help you grow your business. Use email marketing, social updates, flyers, smoke signals – whatever you have to do! – to give your brand’s advocates their social media marketing marching orders.
4 Ways to Help Your Favorite Small Business on Social Media
Give the status updates (especially the updates that have links back to your favorite small business’s web site or blog) a like, +1, heart, or favorite. Likes are public endorsements and are generally reflected in the algorithms that determine which posts enjoy a longer reach and show up more often, higher up, in a social stream or newsfeed.
These likes, +1s and favorites also factor in to Google’s and other search engine algorithms under the heading of “social signals,” which means that they can also help boost your favorite brand’s position in search engine result placement (or SERP, essentially, helping to push them higher up in search rankings means they will be seen more often in online search).
Small business brand marketers absolutely LOVE it when they see that a happy customer thinks highly enough of them to share one of their social status updates with their own networks. And just like with likes, these social signals can help extend post reach on social networks and in online search.
For a small business, this is a good time to remind you that the status updates you post must be share-worthy. You can’t expect brand advocates (even your own mother!) to share an endless stream of self-promotional “ain’t we great” or advertorial content, their own networks will quickly drop them if they do! This is where a content marketing approach wherein you use a blog to publish content on topics that would interest your audience that are related to but not necessarily focused on your business can make all the difference!
Recommend a Friend
Most social networks provide users with the ability to recommend that one of their connections should connect with another, and that goes for brands as well as individuals. Although every small business brand marketer wishes that brand advocates would do this on their own, you might have to come right out and ask your brand followers to recommend your brand’s social network profile pages to select connections, or all of them, from time to time.
If you have a rewards program or offer referral rewards, this would be a great exercise to incorporate into the program or to feature as a social media contest in order to increase the number of people who follow and engage with your brand on social networks.
The power of the pen has become the power of the type and click. When brand advocates leave a glowing review about your business on a review site, on Facebook or Google+ they are providing your business with one of the strongest word of mouth marketing recommendations possible – but they might not remember to do it if you don’t ask. Post-transaction emails or regular newsletters, a flyer at the point of sale, a note circled on the receipt, a request sent out via text or social media – there are many tools at your disposal for asking brand advocates to leave some love for your small business online, and share it with their friends.
My 2015 Small Business Marketing Calendar is available on amazon.com, and it’s packed with marketing inspiration and a working calendar that you can use to attract – engage – retain and motivate your customers in the coming year.