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The Next Frontiers in Social Media

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A few years ago, you might have been really proud of your small business for being on the forefront of social media. Kudos to you if you were the first retailer in your community to have a Facebook page! Congratulations for figuring out Twitter before everyone else in your industry!

But now what? With nearly every small business engaged in digital marketing, how much does it matter that you were one of the pioneers?

The fact is it doesn’t. Social media may be as important as ever, but the next frontier in marketing your business online is out there waiting for you.  Your business has to evolve and defend your title as a leader. Luckily, these new frontiers don’t require abandoning the online networks you’ve worked so hard to build. A small business can truly make waves by simply moving beyond the traditional way others use those networks and stand out in the crowd.

How Can Your Business Stand Out?

“Amassing hundreds of thousands of social media fans and followers is about more than erecting a symbol of brand strength,” writes Richard Levick, Esq., President and CEO of Levick Strategic Communications in Fast Company, “it’s about strengthening consumer and stakeholder relationships.”

How so? Levick uses American Express as an example. The credit card company rewards cardholders who tweet American Express hashtags with special discounts and savings.

amex example

Target is also deepening social relationships with a mobile app that organizes and highlights certain products based on the recipient’s demographic information.

“These strategies,” writes Levick, “leverage social media connections to not just create awareness, but engagement opportunities that strengthen the audience’s ties to the brand.”

Not only can your business communicate to customers in deeper ways, but your customers can also communicate more deeply with you. In fact, they already are. Learning how to find what they’re saying takes some extra effort.

Using Data to Take Your Digital Marketing to the Next Level

According to Chris BoormanMonitoring Social Media, chief marketing officer and senior vice president of education & enablement at Informatica, “There is another use of social media which may prove to be more powerful over the long term: listening to the voice of the customer by data mining social networks.”

This means finding out more about your customers through a customer relationship management system, which creates customer profiles that use a combination of demographics and prior behavior such as buying patterns to help with marketing decisions.

“The disciplined use of demographic and historical customer data has enabled large numbers of companies to substantially increase the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns,” says Boorman. “Social media data will enable marketers to take targeting to the next level.”

What’s Next?

Small TeamNow that so many businesses consider social media to be an essential part of their business plan, the practice has become rather, well, business-y. Isra Garcia explains on Social Media Today how looking back at the roots of social media – human interaction – can help businesses break new ground.

“Sometimes we forget the word social’ and [we] just focus on the word ‘media’ or ‘marketing,'” he writes. “Businesses lose their authenticity and brands turn themselves into robots.”

Garcia says that this can be avoided by focusing social media efforts on “content that matters to your audience, offer different ways for them to connect with you, allow them to have a voice in your framework, allow freedom of interaction and relationship inside your business [and] answers clearly and quickly and in the most human way possible.”

There’s still time to be a digital marketing pioneer. Avoid complacency and make a name for your business online by being among the first to uncover what’s next for social media.

Food for thought: What’s one way you could start connecting with your social media audience in a deeper way today?  What are some ways you could make your business stand out in the crowd?

  • http://www.shawngraham.me Shawn Graham

    Great post! You raise some really good points and provide some very specific examples of how businesses can push the envelope by using social media more strategically.

    The first thing all businesses MUST do is engage. If a customer leaves a comment (good or bad), you’ve got to respond. You spend so much time and effort trying to attract and retain customers, you don’t want to miss out on those precious opportunities where your customers want to have a dialogue. Just today, I saw someone tweet about a negative experience with a local service provider. If they don’t respond, why even be on Twitter?

    Once you have the blocking and tackling down (establishing your online personality and voice, publishing content, responding to questions and comments), that’s when the fun can really begin. The American Express example you shared is great–they’re looking for ways to incentivize their customers to take action in much the same way direct mailers use coupons and discount codes. You can use A/B testing to see what works best (a topic I just blogged about earlier this week http://bit.ly/L5UHHo).

    With so many businesses online (and more being added every day), you’ve got to look for every opportunity to create meaningful connections. Now go…the next frontier of social media is right around the corner.

    • Allison Canty

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment Shawn and sorry about the delay in response! Engagement is a must, especially now a days. It’s amazing to see how many brands are out there online and not engaging. What’s the point? Your customers are an untapped wealth of knowledge and you never know what things could come from simply engaging!

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