Is social media the equaliser for small businesses?
Social media provides opportunities for small businesses to compete with global brands. Any business can choose to register a Facebook or Twitter account and promote their products and services. Social media enables customers to define a brand’s reputation by choosing to follow, publicise or interact with an organisation and ‘share’ their services.
No matter how large or small your business, the overall goal remains the same: to sell products and to publicise and expand the brand. To achieve this, engagement with your target audiences is essential. In today’s digital era, engagement relies upon a brand’s online presence. Depending on a business’s use of social media, a small business can easily get more exposure then a multi-billion dollar organisation.
Live marketing events (ie exhibitions and conferences) provide a great platform for engagement and digital media has transformed the event industry by allowing exhibitions to reach a larger target audience. According to Exhibitor Magazine, the number of companies integrating social media to their exhibits had risen by more than 80 per cent in 2012.
A web interface on your exhibition stand allows customers to experience and engage with your brand first hand, creating debates across the social media sphere and enhancing the brand’s online presence. Let’s examine the key social media tools an exhibitor can use.
LinkedIn is a business community that brings professionals together. It also provides the opportunity to follow other companies and participate in group discussions. Building genuine relationships and sharing knowledge is a great way to make new connections and nurture your relationships.
Companies attending exhibitions often use the group discussions feature to share their products and services, generating an interest in the product before, during and after the show. During the exhibition business cards are traded, and later connected on LinkedIn.
A large portion of any customer base are likely to be Twitter users, who could choose to follow your brand. Businesses can use the hashtag (#) to keep their products trending and create a buzz around their brands. Updates on your products or services will connect with your customers. Many exhibitors give out free samples in exchange for a follow or re-tweet. Outreaching new customers has to be a primary business objective, ensuring you leave the exhibition with more connections that could well lead to face-to-face meetings.
A Facebook fan page provides an opportunity for customers to interact with your business and comment on your news. At exhibitions, companies offer incentives for users to ‘Like’ the fan page, which stands out on their newsfeed. Creating a live brand experience at an exhibition can generate many hits very quickly, so businesses will often try to entice the public to their stand with a USP. This is a cost-effective method for large brand exposure.
Pinterest is growing in use in the social media field and there were some 27m active users on the site in 2012. Exhibitors have used the tool to pin stands and products. Inspiring technology is present at most commercial exhibitions and when shared, it entices online communities. This provides invaluable social exposure for brands products.
Blogging is the heart of a digital marketing strategy. Social media draws traffic to the page where a company is able to describe its services in more detail. Simultaneously blogging during live events provides excellent exposure for your brand and unique insights to your company. Search engines such as Google recognise high quality content as a key ranking factor and it is important to write on your company blog to increase your sites visible presence rankings and engage your existing readership.
Article contributed by James Barnett on behalf of Nimlok. James is a former consultant for the live events industry.