New York--Because social media is now the No. 1 activity on the web, it’s a platform that cannot be ignored when it comes to marketing for small businesses, and is a powerful tool to reach targeted consumers when used correctly.

This was the message behind an educational seminar presented Monday at the JA New York show by Dave Kerpen, New York Times best-selling author of Likeable Business and Likeable Social Media and CEO of Likeable Jewelers. He discussed how retailers can leverage social media to build a base and bring in more customers.

To sum up the importance of social media to small businesses , Kerpen shared a quote from Erik Qualman, author of the best-selling Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, who said: “the ROI (return on investment) of social media is that your business will still exist in five years.”

Since today’s consumers are spending more time on social media and less time surfing the web, more emphasis is put on recommendations that come from friends and family. And since Facebook is just “word of mouth on steroids,” Kerpen said, he predicts that social media will become more important than search engines over the next few years.

What social media will do:
1. Allow businesses to easily reach new clients. Kerpen said that these platforms are more effective than traditional marketing methods in reaching targeted consumers.
2. Help the business stay top of mind with current clients. Appearing in clients’ News Feed or Twitter feed gives a retailer regular exposure, and is the best way to drive ROI, according to Kerpen. It allows retailers to communicate with clients more often in “a way that’s not too sale-sy or spammy.”
3. Build lasting relationships with all clients. Social media is “Word of Mouth 2.0,” Kerpen said, and a presence on these sites can allow for reviews and recommendations that can help jewelers build clients for the long term.

What social media won’t do:
1. It won’t be free. The main cost for a strong social media presence is time, as well as any paid advertising.
2. It won’t bring instant results. Whereas some forms of marketing, such as mailers and emails to clients, may bring in new customers quickly, social media takes time to build up relationships with scale over time.
3. It won’t make up for an unlikeable business. “If there are fundamental problems with the business, social media will make it worse,” Kerpen said, noting that negative reviews will just compound the issue.

How to use social media to grow your business:
1. Get started. Businesses need to take the time to set up an actual business page, and Kerpen suggested having an individual profile for Facebook as well, which can help users understand the platform better.
2. Personalize the page. Social networks are increasingly focusing on photos, which is where jewelers have an advantage. While there should be, of course, images of jewelry, there could also be pictures of welcoming employees and any nice shots of the storefront. “Authenticity, vulnerability, and transparency are huge benefits for small business,” he said.
3. Get current clients to “like” or follow the business on all chosen social media platforms. According to Kerpen, this is the most important aspect of using social media to build the business. “Word of mouth has to start with somebody, and the people it starts with are current clients,” he said. Everyone that comes into contact with the business is a potential “like” or follower.
4. Advertise to friends of current clients. Facebook’s paid advertising, in addition to featuring the business’s name and other information, also shows users which of their friends have “liked” a business, which means the “word of mouth recommendation is built into the ad.” Advertisers can also narrow down the reach by area, targeting the consumers most relevant to a business.
5. Use content to engage with clients. Retailers should be more concerned with updating regularly rather than spreading themselves too thin over too many social media platforms; jewelers shouldn’t take on more than they can handle well. Posts can provide value with education, teaching followers something they may not know about jewelry, or connect by entertaining with interactive posts like questions and fill-in-the-blank quizzes.
6. Create incentives. Kerpen suggested gifts with purchase for “liking” a page, sweepstakes and contests to get buzz around the social media networks.
7. Easily showcase a business on the page. “Why try to drive customers to your website when they’re already on Facebook?” Kerpen asked. Facebook pages for businesses now offer many of the same services as a web page, including maps, store locator, and looking up an item, among other features.
8. Acquire new clients. Though more posts should feature engaging or educating content, jewelers are still in business to sell, which means it’s OK to pitch products or make an offer every now and then, Kerpen said. For every nine educating, engaging, non-sales posts, it’s acceptable to share one promotional update.
9. Respond. Reviews should be addressed, even if they’re bad, at least once a week. A bad review isn’t necessarily detrimental to the business, unless no one responds and addresses the issue. Respond to direct questions any clients may have immediately as they come, however.


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