Is your customer service killing your business? makes some brands so successful with social media? The short answer: content delivery and the customer service that follows. Successful brands, large and small, focus on delivering creative, useful, and engaging content to their audience. Social Media Examiner shares ways to find valuable content in a February 5 article, 8 Ways to Discover Valuable Social Media Content. But remember, the key is not only in the content and its usefulness; the key is the engagement that takes place along the consumer decision journey. An audience becomes engaged through content delivery and through other marketing tactics, but brands that continue to impress after the opt-in or purchase have greater opportunity to benefit from increased word-of-mouth that comes with brand advocacy.

Engagement and exceptional service must exist throughout the entire experience. Here’s the good news… as a small business owner, you are one step above the big companies with building a high level of brand loyalty. Sure, big name brands have bigger budgets and can use celebrity endorsements to build loyalty, but, you also have an advantage. Tools like social media provide you and your potential customers the opportunity to build a true, lasting relationship. It’s now much easier for small businesses to build brand loyalty without an exorbitant budget.

With larger corporations, brand loyalty is built over a longer period of time and follows a complex consumer decision-making cycle. With a small business, strong brand loyalty can also come from the transparency you create and willingness as a business owner to put yourself out there and build a relationship with those who patron your business. What happens when you do this? Your consumers begin to trust you. They know your story. They know why you went into business, how many children you have, and what they look like. You’ve asked them for their opinion about new product ideas, and not through a survey, but rather a conversation. As a small business owner, take advantage of this closeness and the power of social media to connect with your clients. When you respond to a post and call them by name, they know you really know their name. A large corporation is trying to emulate this same close relationship but that’s just it, it’s just a presentation and consumers know they’re talking to the company’s social media department. Small business owners on the other hand can truly have a reciprocal relationship with their clients and build trust quickly.

Social media marketing works just like a visit to a mom-and-pop business. When I buy a Coca-Cola, I don’t expect the owner of Coca-Cola to nod and thank me, but when I walk into your sidewalk café and order a Coca-Cola, I do expect your staff to smile and thank me for my business. And when they do, I remember it. It stays with me and eventually I begin to favor the café. I can tell the owner and their team care about the business and me. It is the experience, and a single failure at any touch point can mean your competitor is that potential customer’s new best friend. While you got me in the door of your café with your content (Coca-Cola), it was the other ways you truly engaged me that kept me coming back to your café. You could even stop selling Coca-Cola and I’d still come back because now I love the place!

Questions? Feel free to post your questions here or shoot me a message. I’m on your side and I’m happy to help.

Jo Lynn Deal is an integrated marketing communications strategist and founder of myMarketing Cafe.  She has been featured in PR News, Project Eve, The Business Journal, and The Examiner. Catch her every week on the Cup of Jo blog, where she focuses on trending topics and fresh ideas in the world of integrated small business marketing. Connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.

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