Leave it to a dating app to demonstrate the instant success a creative social media marketing approach can bring to a new business.
Tinder, the location-based dating service that facilitates matchups between interested parties, used a tactic best described as word-of-mouth advertising in a digital format to successfully launch its app.
In a recent podcast, Tinder co-founder and CEO Sean Rad revealed the company grew by 50 percent the day after texting 500 individuals a link to its app. That tactic and other word-of-mouth campaigns grew Tinder’s customer base from 20,000 to 500,000 users in less than a month.
To quickly reach and grow their own customer bases, entrepreneurs must embrace social media in all its forms. Social media’s free word-of-mouth quality can attract and engage potential customers at a stage in a company’s development when advertising budgets are often tight, and expenses carefully monitored.
When building a new business, attracting customers is imperative — and social media is a leading path to gathering and retaining loyal consumers.
Reach out and touch customers.
Consumers love to be engaged, equipped and empowered, says Kimberly Whitler, a marketing professor at the University of Virginia. This makes them feel important, like they have a vested interest in the company. Consumers crave two-way interactions and are flattered to offer reviews of a company’s products or services.
Why should this matter to a small entrepreneur? Because every customer reached is a potential repeat customer who will tell others about a positive experience.
When a startup adopts social media marketing tactics that truly engage its customers, the benefits can be plentiful. The company likely will grow its customer base while spending less money on marketing, leaving more funds available to invest in higher salaries for employees and other areas of the business.
Social media marketing done right also helps businesses stay top of mind among their followers. Consumers will recall engaging content, helpful advice or humorous palaver. According to MarketingLand, consumers don’t want to be lectured or bombarded with ads. Good vibes toward a company result in trust, long-term loyalty and greater revenue.
Related: 6 Ways to Think Outside the Box When Marketing Your Small Business
Nielsen reports that 92 percent of global consumers identify earned media as their favorite form of advertising, primarily in the form of recommendations from friends and acquaintances. They trust companies that connect with them in genuine, captivating ways and want to establish relationships with them.
Shake up strategies to push the marketing status quo.
So how can entrepreneurs change their marketing strategies to create connections with customers and pack more social punch? Here are four tactics to try:
1. Register accounts on all major platforms.
According to Hootsuite, social media can no longer be brushed aside. A business won’t succeed without active accounts across several platforms. If social media’s word-of-mouth power is not utilized, the chances for promoting a business are largely lost. Get started with accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to meet customers where they are.
Even companies without a product to sell benefit from engaging on social media. Magic Leap, a private company that is developing a futuristic augmented/virtual reality system, has created interactive content to whet users’ appetites for the impact its future product could have on their daily lives. With no imminent product launch announcement, the company has still generated about 60,000 likes on Facebook and has attracted 32,000 Twitter followers.
2. Harness the power of community.
Reach out to consumers — and let them reach out to you and to one another — using social media in order to successfully build community and benefit from positive word of mouth.
Yelp, which publishes crowdsourced reviews of products and services, shows how powerful positive reviews can be. If a customer likes the service or food at a new restaurant in town, a good Yelp review will encourage future customers to flock to the startup’s table. Encouraging customers to leave a positive verified review, perhaps through offering a coupon or discount on future services, can help draw in new customers.
And consider the case of Uncle Maddio’s Pizza. I came across the family-owned pizza joint while traveling with my son’s baseball team. Our hungry team searched restaurant reviews on Yelp and found positive comments about Uncle Maddio’s. The food was excellent, service was top-notch and the staff was personable. Before we left, I learned that a franchise location would soon open in my hometown.
The owners started a Facebook page for the new location and promoted "spirit nights" that would raise money for schools and youth organizations. Needless to say, when the new store opened, I took my family there and have returned many times to eat and to support fundraisers. Positive online and word-of-mouth reviews have helped this small business to success.
Related: 6 Ways to Harness the Power of Review Sites
3. Associate with businesses that share a similar mindset.
Strive to be connected with businesses that are working toward the same type of high-quality customer experiences. Good business practice dictates being tied in with others that have strong search engine rankings and website presence. Interact with them online, and share each other’s content across your social platforms.
Many online marketers, such as Neil Patel of Kissmetrics (to whom I’ve turned to for advice on my SEO projects) say posts on social media influence Google and Bing search rankings. Search engine rankings aim to provide users the best possible resources to help them make purchasing decisions and acquire information. The accounts can affect a business’s reputation and authority just as easily as they promote the business.
Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing
4. Employ someone who knows how to use social media.
Hire someone who thoroughly knows social media — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and beyond. This person should be able to moderate comments, post daily messages and answer inquiries. Give this person guidance on what your business is trying to accomplish and a list of what’s acceptable to post. His or her goal should be to keep customers informed and engaged in a timely manner.
A good social media team can take a business to global heights. Holly Clarke, a marketing manager at Airbnb, says the company has team members in San Francisco, France, Germany and the U.K., along with translators tailoring posts to other areas of the world. Airbnb’s #NightAt and #BelongAnywhere campaigns draw in consumers from across the globe to interact with its content.
Entrepreneurs have a lot to think about when starting new businesses, but the use of social media should be a no-brainer. Creative social media marketing tactics, with an emphasis on free word-of-mouth advertising, enable a startup to grow its customer base quickly. Long-term relationships and two-way interactions with those customers will soon follow.