social media can help you climb to new heights

7 ways social media can directly grow your business

I still get it. The question. Sometimes I can see it coming. Maybe at a coffee break during a small business conference. Or a local networking event with lawyers, bankers and other relationship-based businesses. The head cocks ever so slightly. The gaze squints. The weight shifts and a hand shoots out with a palm slightly upturned. Half their body is saying “Yes, tell me more” and while the other half holds all the welcome of a hungover traffic cop: “Stop — I don’t need to feel any more guilty about something else I need to be doing.”

The words are different every time but the tension underlying them never changes. “Do I really need to be on social media?” Here’s the long-form version of what I tell them.

7 Ways Social Media Can Directly Grow Your Business

1. Social media can help you find your customers and speak to them in their language.
To sell to them you need to know who your customers are, what they want and how that fits with what you’re offering. Every day millions of people are constructing a digital version of themselves on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. What are they saying?

The social networks are searchable. Who’s talking about your product category, your competitor, you? Are they happy? Are they near you (you can often search by location, too)? What words are they using to describe their problem? What are they saying they wish for in a solution? (Put both of these in your copy.) What’s missing from their idealized version of themselves? How can you fill the gap? Check out this post for some tips on zeroing in on your target market.

2. Social media can make people aware that you exist.
In 1898 people were already discussing an early version of a model that would later become core to the ad industry: AIDA (A — attention; I — interest; D — desire; A — action). The idea that you can’t sell something to someone who doesn’t know you exist is not exactly earth-shattering. Think of your presence on social media as a digital billboard, a self-created opportunity to be seen by the legions who were not previously aware of you at all.

3. Social media can lead people to prefer your business over others.
Who wants to do business with a bore? Other things being equal I’d rather buy a vacuum from George Clooney than George Costanza. Social media is a great forum to show off your human side. There are countless ways to do this, but here are some ideas:

  • Humor — you don’t have to be a clown to make someone laugh.
  • Generosity — give of your knowledge, your time or attention. Answer a question. (Congratulate someone. Thank someone. Share something of someone else’s.
  • Vulnerability — this works best if your social media profile is for yourself or if you’re a solo practitioner.

4. Social media can turn a cold lead into a warm one.
One of the best ways to get a response to your cold e-mail or call is to show that you actually share a connection. If you’re lucky your recipient has given you some insight into what they’ve been up to lately via their public updates on Twitter or LinkedIn. Maybe they’ve just picked up a book that you’ve already read, or returned from a conference that you’ve attended the year before. Mentioning this upfront is a good way to build rapport where it didn’t previously exist.

5. Social media can help you make sales.
Social media-only offers are a great way to generate excitement for your product, make sales and  — if you’ve attracted high-quality customers — build a foundation for profitable repeat business. As with offline promotions do beware of the hit to the bottom line and make sure the results are worth it.

6. Social media can help you get press coverage.
Journalists are Twitter junkies, and Twitter is an excellent way to reach out to them. Just as in #4 you’re going to want to do your due diligence to make sure you understand their beat, what they’ve been up to currently and what pitch might appeal to them.

7. Social media can help you get investment.
Venture capitalists are constantly chasing the next Facebook. A strong social media following will not win you that Series A on its own — but in addition to other signs of traction it may help signify that you are, in fact, the Next Big Thing.

Remember, 20 years ago you may have also thought there was no need for your business to have a website. Think of social media as the new website.