Social media is exploding as an avenue for small business marketing. If you use Facebook, Twitter or read blogs, you’ve seen that brands and companies are using social media as a tool to engage customers, provide increased customer service and grow businesses. And this trend is only increasing.
SmallBizTrends.com reported in the results of its 2012 Marketing Trends Survey that 54 percent of respondents are planning to invest more in social media in 2012.
As a marketing tactic, social media makes sense for small businesses. First, because of the sheer number of people using social media. More than 80 percent of all Americans now use at least one social media network, according to SocialMediaExaminer.com. And social media users tend to be active. The average Facebook user spends 15 hours a month on the site — that’s two full days of work! But most importantly, social media provides small businesses with a unique opportunity to directly engage customers and potential clients. In fact, SocialMediaExaminer.com also reports 53 percent of active social media users follow at least one brand or firm.
Facebook is the most popular and well-known social media platform, but there are many others that can provide great opportunity for small business looking to employ a social media campaign. Social media, by its design, moves at warp speed — and keeping up can be a challenge. So where should brands and businesses be focusing their attention next?
|Best Practices for Deploying a QR Code Campaign
QR Codes. QR codes are a relatively new technology that is quickly becoming a favorite of marketers. Even if you don’t think you know what QR codes are, you’ve likely seen them before — those black and white squares plastered on billboards, magazines ads, product packaging, automobiles and just about anything on which one can advertise. QR (quick response) codes are 2D barcodes that can be scanned by a camera-enabled smartphone. The technology requires that the phone have a QR-code reader, which uses the phone’s photo lens to scan the code. Code readers can be downloaded as applications to a smartphone. The code provides instructions to the phone to complete any number of functions, such as launching the web browser, dialing a phone number, adding contact information or sending a text message.
The technology — created in Japan — is still finding its footing in the United States, where 52 percent of people have never heard of QR codes and only 28 percent have scanned a QR code with their phones. But considering that about a quarter of the U.S. population owns smartphones, QR codes have huge growth potential.
QR codes have many advantages for online marketing. They open the door to increased content delivery by providing an instantaneous solution when there is an immediate need or desire. Plus, QR codes are the ultimate in “opt-in” marketing. QR codes are ideal for promoting coupons and special offers, sharing video or audio content and increasing social media connections. Creating a QR code is easier than you might think. There are many Internet tools available that allow you to create a free QR code.
On the downside, QR codes require lots of follow-through on the part of the consumer. If someone notices a QR code on your advertisement, billboard or fleet vehicle, he or she needs to stop, get out of the car (or walk closer), take out his or her cell phone, scan the QR code, wait for it to process and, finally, read the content.
So if you’re going to develop a QR code, it’s important to make the end result worthwhile. Be sure to tell users what they will get for their additional effort of scanning your code. Add a value (like a coupon) or an experience (like a game) rather than just driving them to a URL. And don’t let the QR code replace your messaging — remember that a potentially high percentage of people won’t scan the code at all. If you decide to utilize QR codes, use metrics so you can determine the campaign’s success. What ad locations are working? Which ads are people responding to? What time of day are you receiving the most scans?
Group Buying. Another popular social media tactic for small business is deal-a-day group coupon offers. The trend, made popular by companies like GroupOn and LivingSocial, allows businesses to negotiate discounts — usually 50 to 90 percent off — with a group coupon company. The company then sends the deal to thousands of subscribers in a free daily e-mail. A pre-determined number of customers need to purchase the deal before it is “unlocked,” enabling everyone to receive the coupon.
|More on Group Coupons
If you’re thinking of offering a group coupon for your business, consider the following:
Signs indicate that the group buying trend will increase in popularity over time. Local businesses are finding they can successfully attract new and repeat business by introducing customers to their services with a deeply discounted offer. GroupOn reports that 97 percent of merchants featured on the site want to be featured again.
Though the terms and costs vary with each group coupon company, many — including GroupOn — have no direct charge for publishing a deal. Instead, GroupOn receives a percentage of each deal sold, many times upwards of 50 percent. In return, the company provides a custom e-mail distribution and editorial write-up. They also promote the deal across social networks and will provide you a list of those who purchased the deal, to help cut down on any fraudulent redemption. GroupOn also provides customer service support for deal-related questions.
It’s important to keep in mind that group coupon offers aren’t always profitable for the business offering the deal. After you subtract your total costs for providing the service from the deeply discounted deal you’re offering, and share those profits with the coupon company, offering a group coupon can actually come at a financial cost to your company. If you’re considering running a group coupon offer, investigate various companies and the terms of their programs, and take a careful look at your costs and markup to know its effect on your bottom line. Still, most companies look at group coupon programs as a marketing tactic and not a revenue stream.
Pinterest. By now, you’re probably familiar with Facebook terminology such as “friending” and “liking,” but get ready to add a whole new list of terms (“boards,” “pins” and “repin”) to your social media vernacular now that Pinterest, the latest social media phenomenon, is taking the world by storm. Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that lets you organize and share all the things that you find online. People use Pinterest to plan weddings, decorate homes and organize favorite recipes. Pinterest also integrates seamlessly with existing social networks. For example, if you “pin” a photo from Flickr to your pinboard, your Facebook status can automatically update to share the post with your Facebook friends.
The site, which launched in March 2010, has experienced staggering growth. Unique visitors to the site grew 400 percent from September to December 2011, while still in its invitation-only beta launch. By December 2011, the site was also averaging 11 million visits a week, according to Politico.com.
From a marketing perspective, Pinterest has huge potential. Every pin links back to its original “home” on the web. So, a popular pin can become a major traffic driver for a website. In fact, CNN.com noted one study that showed Pinterest drives more visitors to third-party websites than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined.
Facebook Applications. If you follow any brands or companies on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the contests and sweepstakes many of them run. Facebook updated its Promotions Policy in 2011. The new changes affect the way that any brand or company, no matter the size, can run contests and sweepstakes. Under the new policy, promotions on Facebook must be administered within “Apps on Facebook.com.” Facebook also requires:
- a complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant;
- acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by or associated with Facebook;
- disclosure that the participant is providing information to [disclose recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook;
- that its features or functionality cannot be used as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a page or checking in to a place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant. It can, however, be a condition of entry.
If you decide to run a Facebook promotion, you may want to consider hiring an application partner, such as Wildfire Interactive and OfferPop. These companies specialize in running Facebook promotions in accordance with Facebook’s policies and will work with you to professionally design your promotion’s Facebook page(s), run the promotion and monitor the results.
Final Thoughts. Whether you decide to use more “traditional” social media platforms like Facebook or blogs, or newer tools like Pinterest and QR codes, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of the platform against the goals of your marketing campaign and to set benchmarks against which you can measure the results.
The author is executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance. To learn more about PPMA, visit www.npmapestworld.org/ppma.