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(BPT) – Small businesses that adopt online marketing strategies see significant business benefits, ranging from improved campaign performance to higher return on investment (ROI), according to a recent study conducted by Forrester. However, small businesses are likely still favoring newspaper advertising and direct mail, which are time-intensive and costly.


Consumers, however, are now spending more time online than ever before: the average time spent online by U.S. residents is 32 hours per month. They spend a large portion of that online time connecting with friends and family as well as businesses.


There is no better time than now for business owners to take a fresh look at how best to take advantage of social channels to reach consumers in a relevant way. For example, 150 million people visit Facebook pages (home to brands and businesses) every day, where they share word-of-mouth recommendations. With social platforms, business owners can listen, respond, take part in real-time conversations with their customers, and see how these recommendations drive sales.


Lolly Wolly Doodle, a North Carolina-based online retailer that creates personalized, monogrammed children’s clothing, went straight to social media to reach the right audience and increase business traffic. “We really built a community on Facebook, so we’re able to listen to consumers and talk to them,” says company founder Brandi Temple. “The very first time we posted something we got immediate response, people sending in orders faster than we could do production on them.”Temple discovered that social media was the marketing channel that was growing the fastest and, as a result, shifted resources accordingly.


Millions of business owners have seen big business growth through social marketing. Below are a few tips to enhance your business’ presence on social media and more effectively reach the right audience to grow sales in 2013.


1. Build your social hub


A business’ social profile, such as a Facebook page, is the central hub for any business and it’s free and easy to set up. Fill out business hours on the page, then people can easily see when you’re open (there’s a green dot on your page when you’re open). Also, put your page’s URL on in-store materials – receipts, napkins, brochures, etc. to increase the number of people who can become fans of the page. These are all free ways to get the word out about your business.


2. Engage with your customers


Create content that will keep your audience interested and coming back for more. Post quality content regularly by listening to what customers have to say and making sure posts are relevant to your audience. Post at least two to three times per week to stay relevant to the people who are fans or followers. Mix up the content with engaging photos and videos. Be timely by posting about current events, holidays or recent news.


State Bicycle Co., a bike manufacturer based out of Tempe, Ariz. that specializes in limited edition bicycles, used Facebook to frequently host photo contests on its page, and the contest winners received prizes including a new bike. They also encourage fans to like posts to see a sneak peek of new products.


3. Boost your results


After engaging with your customers, amplify your results by using social ad offerings geared towards small businesses.


If you’re on Facebook, promoted posts are an easy way to reach more people with your important messages. Promoting a post turns your posts into ads, right from your page, ensuring that more of your audience sees your posts. Promoted posts can be targeted according to gender, age, geography and other factors to reach the best audience.


Local businesses ranging from restaurants to salons to retailers can all take this opportunity to get a much-needed social facelift. Regardless of the industry or budget, now is the time to consider social as an integral part of your marketing strategy. Any business owner starting with these three tips will be on the way to building strong relationships with customers, reaching new people and, most importantly, driving sales.



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