Businesses, both large and small, are feeling pressure to add social media to their marketing plans. Between Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, and e-mail marketing (just to name a few), there are already too many options with new ones showing up on the scene all the time. Once the decision is made to jump into social media, there's the strategy to consider. It's hard not to be tempted by blog posts and articles claiming to help you "Get 5,000 followers in 5 minutes" or "Increase your Facebook fans by 200% TODAY." Is this what social media is really about? Quantity over quality?
It's true that the more connections you have, the greater your reach could be, but where's the value if no one has a reason to interact with you...and, like blowing the seeds of a dandelion, it's through these interactions that your business is introduced to a new audience of potential clients. That's just how social media works. In order to build a vibrant community within your social media ecosystem, connections need to grow organically. When a satisfied client clicks the "Like" or "Follow" button, not only is it a testimonial about your business but also a signal that your client actually wants to hear what you have to say and is willing to recommend you.
The Straw Hat is a restaurant on the Caribbean island of Anguilla that uses Facebook to make social media sing. The owners, expat Americans Anne and Peter Parles, have created a virtual and interactive outpost for a wonderful vacation memory of Anguilla. Diners who enjoyed the restaurant can (and actively do) communicate with their new friends, Anne and Peter, after they return to the various parts of the globe they call home. Visit Straw Hat's Facebook page and you'll see rave reviews of the food, concerned comments about looming hurricanes, Straw Hat T-shirt sightings from all sorts of random places. One guest liked his dinner so much he posted a picture of it on his own Facebook page for all his friends to enjoy vicariously. It's a vibrant community where everyone is a friend...but it is also the very best kind of advertising available...Word of Mouth.
Part of what allowed Anne and Peter to succeed in their social media endeavor is that their approach is reflective of them as people and how they run their business. Guests of Straw Hat immediately feel like friends and posts on their Facebook page are answered promptly and graciously by Peter. As business owners, they are accessible, interested, genuine and likeable...a very appealing combination. There is no attempt to use Facebook to advertise the restaurant in a conventional sense, only to cultivate and nurture relationships. Anne and Peter know that if people like you and your product, not only will they return but they will recommend you to a friend.
Social media is a two-way street...a conversation. For it to be most effective, small business owners need to be front and center, starting the dialogue or participating in one that's been started. If there is a negative comment, use it as an opportunity to correct misinformation and to show the public that you value their opinion. Above all, it's a great time to express your gratitude for your clients' interest or loyalty. As you're thinking about your social media strategy, feel the virtual sand between your toes and visit the Straw Hat's Facebook page...I hear the snapper's delicious.