How Social Media Impacts Small Businesses Guest Author Social media needs no further introduction, as over half of the world’s population currently uses various social platforms. With its tentacles spreading across every facet of modern life, it comes as no surprise that small businesses are tapping into its huge potential. As a digital marketplace teeming with a potential audience of about three billion people, social media is a place for you to find potential clients and promote your brand and services. Even with a low marketing budget, all you need at your disposal is your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter account, and you can reach a huge audience with your content. It is with a keen awareness of these benefits that companies are using social media to generate leads and build up their brand identity so that it can reach and resonate with a larger audience. But, let’s dive a little deeper into what a social media strategy can offer small businesses, and how exactly it can lead to certain benefits for your brand. 1. Social Media and MarketingCurrently, an estimated 3.6 billion people use social media worldwide. Forty percent of those users rely on social media to unearth information about new brands. This presents a tremendous branding and marketing opportunity for your small business. Your brand matters greatly to your customers’ perception of your business, and it’s often the first line of defense in regards to what they can expect from you in the future. When you implement a well thought out social media strategy, you can expect some promising marketing benefits, like:Increased brand awareness.A direct line to millions of users.A free way to post original content that drives customers to your website.Brand humanization and a way to pull back the curtain so users can see the people behind the brand.But it isn’t all roses. There are some negative aspects to being more accessible to people, and they often get overlooked. Some issues that arise via social media include:Unfavorable reviews or comments tainting brand image.Slow responses to user outreach, leaving a bad taste in their mouths.Certain posts being misinterpreted and making users and followers disengage.None of these should deter you from an active social presence and thinking of unique ways to engage your audience on social media. Simply consider the negative aspects and have a plan of action for addressing them if or when they occur. You can also tap into social media to study your competitors and provide assistance with any competitor analysis. By following competing brands and certain hashtags, you can see what your competitors are creating, sharing, and what others are saying about those brands. 2. Social Media and SalesSocial media can play a very pivotal role in driving more sales for your small business. Why? Well, just as I mentioned in my point about brand awareness, social allows you to deliver your services to the masses. While certain sales strategies are more effective when they’re focused on qualified leads, social is great because it allows you to cast that wide net. Using both will offer you some balance so you can reach interested prospects and expand your reach at the same time. However, it is necessary to understand what the best platforms are for selling your products, as well as the important sales KPIs you’ll be tracking to measure success. For instance, Facebook is a great platform for B2C sales, but if you’re looking for more B2B efforts, LinkedIn is ideal.When measuring success in regards to sales from your social efforts, make sure you track things like where your leads and website visits are coming from. If you see an influx of traffic from social, and that traffic is converting to, then you’ll know your efforts are paying off. 3. Social Media and Your WebsiteSocial media is a great solution when looking for cost-effective ways to drive more traffic to your website. The more you share relevant content, the more opportunity you have to create a connection with your followers. Any solid content distribution strategy includes a plan for effectively sharing via social media, and that’s because it’s the best way to get a ton of people to not only see your content but to click through to it and visit your website. This leads to more visitors, and more potential to convert those visitors into email subscribers and valuable leads. To use social media to generate traffic to your website, make sure you follow some rules: Your posts should always be relevant, original, and high-quality.Make your posts as engaging and enticing as possible.Always have an image accompany your post.Make sure the link your posting is to on-site content, preferably a blog post or a gated piece of content.4. Social Media and Customer ServiceSocial media offers a whole new avenue for reaching and engaging with customers. Obviously, the best way to offer customer service is directly; however, since many people rely on social media as a way to connect, it’s still a viable option. Social is a great way for small businesses to quickly and easily reply to customer inquiries and provide relevant updates. The key here is to make sure your social interaction is timely and thorough. You want to make your customers feel that you’re available to them and that you’re providing them with the attention they need. As stated in point number one, the last thing you want is for your lack of quick response (or no response) to have a negative impact on their impression of your business. Social media is not only a strategy every small business needs to implement, but it can do wonders for various facets of your company. Make sure you focus on the social platforms that your customers are most engaged with, and put together a plan for consistently publishing and engaging with them. Track your KPIs to determine what’s working, and make tweaks along the way for continued success. Author BioLori Wade is a journalist from Louisville and works at Timenotes, a time tracking app. She is a content writer specializing in news and conceptual business topics. For more tips on time management, entrepreneurship, or leadership, you can find her on LinkedIn.