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One of the questions I get asked by many small business owners goes something like this – “My business is really small and I am not sure if I should get into this social media stuff because it sounds like a lot of work”. Seems like a pretty reasonable question, right?

A few years ago, I asked the same question of Jeff Roach, founder of Sociallogical – a company that teaches folks about social media and how to use it. His response was simple – social media can be used to truly connect with your customer, in a way that rises above the general sales ‘check-in’ call. At that moment, I struggled to understand what he meant and I think the word charlatan might have come to mind (jk). But as it turns out, Jeff was way ahead of the curve in understanding the impact of social.

In using social media in my own businesses, Wagepoint and Synapp6, here is what I have found are the top 5 reasons for why social matters.

1)      Decision Making – When someone is looking into the products or services that your company offers, the first thing they do is poke around to find out everything they can about you or your company.  You want to make this as easy as possible. This is probably the most important aspect of social, in my opinion. Even if using social media doesn’t always generate leads, it can actually help close a sale.

2)      The Human Element – Social media should be used to humanize your company and the people that work in it. Here’s a tip: When you write your social profile, make it something a human can connect with. Don’t speak ‘corporate’ because this is the one place you can really show off your company’s glittering personality.

3)      Rewards and Offers – Many small businesses give stuff away for free or at discounted prices. Social media gives people a chance to share your offers with others that they think might be interested. It makes your followers look good if they share something of value.

4)      Re-touch – Once you have over 25 customers, it’s easy to start losing touch with a few and that could lead to losing their business eventually. So you create reminders in your calendar so that you keep checking-in with the hope that you will continue nurturing your relationship. This can feel somewhat disingenuous to your customer. Using social media, you can share links to interesting articles, photos of your visits to customer offices and even pictures of your dog. You stay on your customer’s radar without it seeming manufactured.

5)      Lead Generation – I saved this one for last because social media is still too passive, for my liking, to be considered as an all-out lead generation tool. People don’t generally respond to direct messages asking about whether they would like to buy your product or service because that’s not why they are on Twitter or Facebook. But, I have found LinkedIn Inmails to be particularly useful in sending out targeted messages to prospects. Our conversion rate using this feature has been about 30%. This feature is available as part of LinkedIn’s premium plan.

Do you have any other tips for how social media can be used to help small businesses in their marketing efforts? Please share your experiences in the comments below.