For business owners, there’s no point in using a social network if your customers aren’t there, too. If your customers aren’t on Twitter, there’s not much reason for you to be there, either. If they’re not using Google+, there’s not much reason for you to use it.
But then it gets complicated. What other social network sites are your customers, and potential customers, using? Where should a small business spend its time and energy for the best possible ROI?
There are some very powerful (and spendy) tools that can help you locate your target market on social networks, but I want to keep it simple. Here are a few basic ways to find your customers on social media.
I bet you’ve seen signs like this many times:
If you run a business that customers visit:
- advertise your social media accounts as visibly as possible, like in the sign above … but don’t just stop there
- train employees to start informal conversations about social media like “Did you know we offer discounts via Facebook?”
- train employees to ask customers what social media sites they use and what social networks your business should use, then make sure they take notes about what the customer says
You’ll get some anecdotal feedback this way and, if you get enough good replies, you may get a better sense of which sites (other than Facebook) your customers are using.
If you run a business that visits customers at their location, you’ll have to get a little more creative:
- signs on your vehicle
- hand out flyers that teach customers how to find you socially
- start those same conversations mentioned above if/when it’s appropriate
Do a Short Survey
- What social networks do you actively use?
- Which social networks would you recommend our business use as a customer service tool?
You can also go beyond surveys — use your print or online newsletter to ask for feedback from customers. Include an insert in the monthly bills you send out. Add a couple questions to your online contact form.
Every communication you have with a customer is a chance to ask them for some guidance about social media usage. Explain to them that you’re learning to navigate these new opportunities and the growth of your business depends on being able to keep in touch with customers socially. You won’t get anywhere near a 100% response rate, but you should get useful info from the customers that care the most about you and want to connect with you on their favorite social networking sites.
Your Website Analytics
This is the most concrete and reliable way to learn what social networking sites your audience is already using.
Look at the “Referring Sites” to find social networks that are sending you traffic. Or, if you want to get a bit fancy and you’re using Google Analytics, learn how to set up an advanced segment for social media tracking. (It’s easier than it sounds.)
Here’s a look at the social media sites sending traffic here to Small Business Search Marketing so far in 2012:
I fully expect Twitter (t.co) to be tops on this list; I frequently share links to my articles on Twitter. But you know what? I spend zero time promoting this blog on Facebook — and, despite that, it’s the second-biggest social referrer I have.
This is a clear signal: My audience is using a social networking site that I’m not using. Clearly, I should be doing something differently with Facebook since there’s already interest there in my content, even without me trying.
Look at your website analytics. Find where visitors are coming from. If there are social media sites sending you traffic even though you’re not active there, BINGO! You’ve found your audience, or a least a portion of it.
Bonus Ninja-Style Method
If you have a customer mailing list, there’s one more thing you can do.
Many social networking sites offer a “Find Friends” tool. Typically, you either upload a list of email addresses, or you connect your webmail account, and the site will tell you which email contacts are active. Here’s what Twitter’s tool looks like:
If you use that tool, Twitter can tell you which of your contacts/customers are already on Twitter. You can do the same thing across different social networking sites — not to stalk your customers, but to learn how many of them are on each service. It’s just for research. Use this option to learn which social media sites are most popular among your existing customers. Don’t use it to start spamming unwanted messages their way.
Again, these are a few simple, low-budget ways to identify what social media sites your customers are using. Once you know where they are, you can make smarter decisions about how and where to spend your time and marketing energy.
Don’t waste time on social networks if your customers aren’t there already.
(Store sign used via Creative Commons, thanks to SierraTierra on Flickr.)