Many small business owners are unsure or confused as to how social media can be used effectively to engage with their online audience, promote their brand etc. They think that it takes inordinate amounts of time and effort, or maybe it’s not suited to their particular business. Alternately, they have tried using different social networks, but after a period of time – and for a number of different reasons (poor content, infrequency, poor strategy etc.) – their efforts petered out.
So, in order to inspire you and, hopefully, get those creative juices flowing, let’s take a look at 3 small to medium sized enterprises that successfully use social media to build their business brand and identity, reaching out in ways that are informative and engaging, building customer loyalty and trust.
Murphys Ice Cream
Kieran and Sean Murphy from Murphy’s Ice Cream make delicious ice cream in lots of different flavours, using only natural ingredients. Their website is really fresh and colourful, incorporating a short video that introduces the viewer to the two brothers, the natural and high quality ingredients that they use and their passion for what they do.
Their Facebook page (nearly 4,000 Likes) is full of interesting, visual content on new flavours, local events, customer interactions etc. A great example of how Facebook should be used. There are lots of comments, likes and shares and visitors are regularly asked for feedback on different topics.
Kieran Murphy (@kieranmurphy) is also very active on Twitter, providing updates on daily events, responding to questions from other Twitter users, sharing and retweeting positive commentary with his followers (>4,500). He adopts a very informal and conversational style, sharing lots of interesting photos and imagery from their base in Dingle, County Kerry, one of Ireland’s most beautiful locations. He maintains a blog where he provides updates on new flavours, events, developments in the world of ice cream and lots of recipes.
Goodlooking Optics ,an independent optician run by Garry Kousoulou in Enfield, North London, is a great example of how a small company can compete effectively against the significantly larger, bigger optician chains. In his ongoing efforts to set his company apart from these Goliaths, Gary focuses on stylish, high quality products, responsiveness, the personal touch and very importantly, the provision of a customer service second to none. Social media is an integral part of these efforts. Videos, in particular, allow Garry to get across his passion for both customer service and for what he does to get a competitive edge in a very engaging manner.
He has a YouTube channel linked to his website, where he has posted numerous videos on events, customer interactions and general information on glasses. He is very active on Twitter (@opticians) where he has a huge following. He uses this channel to interact with other small businesses, offering advice on social media and eye care and engaging in conversation on a range of topics. He uses his Facebook page to promote special offers, offer appointments, highlight events in the Enfield area and respond to any feedback or comments left by visitors. Goodlooking Optics receives a huge amount of positive commentary on Facebook, helping to convert potential customers into real and returning ones. The Twitter and Facebook accounts are integrated into the website, ensuring that his latest updates are presented to as wide an audience as possible. He uses his blog to offer information and help on everything to do with glasses, frames, eyecare, combined with lots of photos and customer reviews. Social media was made for this guy!
Sugru was invented by Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh and is a form of self-setting rubber that can be formed into any shape. It comes in lots of different colours, bonds onto almost anything and turns into a strong, silicone rubber overnight. It can handle extremes of temperature and is perfect for fixing or modifying objects: from boots, to dishwashers, to USB cables…to almost anything. People are fixing things (or hacking, as Jane calls it) more than ever and Sugru has an ever increasing, passionate and vibrant community of followers who are only too happy to share how they use Sugru with the world. Perfect for social media.
Sugru uses video extensively on the website to show
- What it is
- How it can be used
- Upcoming developments
- Awards, achievements etc.
It's all done very informally, with Jane's passion for her product and its uses shining through.
Sugru also allows users to upload photos of how they have used the product onto the website, allowing visitors to see lots of examples by category and benefit.
On Twitter, Sugru (@sugru) has nearly 10,000 followers, many of whom share their Sugru 'fixes', attaching photos to their tweets.
Sugru's Facebook page is full of photos and commentary on the multitude of uses for the product. The Pinterest account is also integrated into the page. With the emphasis on visuals, videos and imagery, Sugru is perfect for Pinterest and they have lots of different boards on their Pinterest account, allowing visitors to see Sugru being used for a huge variety of purposes.
Sugru has been very effective in using social media to build a strong, loyal user community, a group of users who have in effect become evangelists for Sugru and who are just an extension of the Sugru team.
In examining why these companies are so good at using social media, there are a number of lessons to be learnt:
- Passion is hugely important
- Choose the social media networks that best meet your goals and the needs of your customers
- Treat your customers with respect, ask for their opinion
- Know your audience, what they want to hear, see and read.
- Present one consistent brand across the different social media sites
- Combine promotional activities with helpful information from yourself and others
- Being successful requires engagement, participation, creative content and dialogue. One or two updates a month won't get you there.
- Having a strategy and dedicated resources are very important. Know your goals, what channels you are going to use, how you are going to use them and who is going to use them.
Best of luck in your endeavours!