Local Business Marketing: Social media is the new bare minimum to sell to Generation Y
Let’s face it: Marketing used to be easier, especially for entrepreneurs running small, localized businesses. You once needed nothing more than a Yellow Pages ad to secure a steady stream of business as, let’s say, a local tire shop.
Then came the Internet, and it was still just a matter of having a webpage with your address and contact information. A minor inconvenience, but worth it for those businesses whose customer segments dictated taking extraordinary measures to reach the most tech-savvy people.
Next came Web 2.0, and suddenly it wasn’t enough to just have an online presence anymore. The Web was becoming social. Also, as the bell curve of innovation adoption for the Internet shifted toward mainstream acceptance, it became necessary to engage a wider range of age groups in digital format.
Can potential customers easily research your company and product?
Generation Y has proven itself to be savvy beyond belief in terms of product research, and discriminating to a fault against those brands that don’t make themselves available for online investigation.
A recent study by Lim Ying San and his colleagues from the Multimedia University in Malaysia indicates that a positive significant relationship exists between access and customers’ perceived online retail service quality. Online consumers often want to access a variety of informative sources to obtain up-to-date and useful information for making informed purchasing decisions.
Those sources may include social media, Google and other search engines, and online shopping resources, such as Amazon, as means of price comparison.
In other words, the bare minimum for online marketing and social media for small businesses has changed.
You have no choice
Increasingly, if you can’t be found on the first two pages of a Google search, you don’t exist. If young consumers cannot easily interact with your brand on Facebook, Twitter and, for some companies, even Pinterest, you are worse than out of sight. You are out of mind.
In my house, as I suspect is the case in many Generation Y abodes, we use phone books to hold up the broken coffee table where the leg used to be. Even if I wanted to look at the Yellow Pages, it would only result in spilled coffee. If you want to talk to me about your brand, you need to do the following:
- Optimize your landing page, and make it easy for me to find the information I’m looking for
Would you believe that Panera Bread has no store hours on its website? True story.
Now ask yourself, what are the only things you care about when visiting a website for a restaurant? For me, it’s the menu, calorie information and hours. That’s it.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to Wendy’s at 8:00 p.m. because I didn’t know how late Panera was open.
Call them, you say? That’s so Generation X. It’s not good enough to simply have a website anymore. Now it has to be an intuitive, informative website.
- Get a Twitter account
I like your products. I like your store. I want to talk about you to my friends, except Generation Y doesn’t talk. We tweet.
If I can’t reference you with an @tag that I can find in ten seconds or less, you’ve just lost the opportunity for great word-of-mouth advertising. In this economy, you can’t afford not to tweet.
(Editor’s Note: Customer service, too. Per the example in point #1, while Panera doesn’t have hours on its site, at least it’s responsive on Twitter.)
- Create platform-specific content
You built a Facebook page and then figured out how to link that to your Twitter account, so you just figure you can kill two birds with one stone by recycling your Facebook content on Twitter, right? Wrong.
You’ve officially sentenced yourself to obscurity by committing the unthinkable marketing crime of boring a member of Generation Y. We peruse different social platforms for different reasons. I like Twitter because it gives me a 140-character snapshot of what is happening in my friend’s lives. If I give you permission to talk to me in that format, you had better say something interesting.
If I see recycled content from Facebook, you will lose your permission to talk to me at all. Learn how we use the multiple different platforms, and learn to speak our language in the context of each.
It might sound like a tall order to fill, but increasingly, you need to make yourself available for online investigation if you hope to be found, shared and successful. The days of the Yellow Pages are quickly passing us by. It’s time to get started on a coherent social media strategy before it’s too late.