5 Top Social Marketing Lessons From British Small Businesses

In March, 10 British SMEs (small and medium enterprises) were chosen as winners by The Guardian’s Small Business Network and UPS for their Trade Mission challenge. Here's what they learned on a trip to the U.S.

In March, 10 British SMEs (small and medium enterprises) were chosen as winners by The Guardian’s Small Business Network and UPS for their Trade Mission challenge. The 10 winners were Joe’s Tea Co., Emma Shipley (women’s wear and accessories), Concoction (customizable shampoo), Sugru (moldable glue), Pavegen Systems, Bare Conductive, Aquaforno, Haymax (pollen barrier balm), Montezuma’s Chocolates and Plastic Castle.

Delegates from these companies were invited on a 5-day trip to the U.S. to hear from top export advisers, trade experts and British companies that were already ruling the U.S. market. It also gave them the opportunity to network with American companies and learn firsthand how to establish presence in the United States.

Here’s a rundown of the other social takeaways these SMEs gained from this business trip of a lifetime, along with tips, tricks and tools to help you apply them in your organization.

1. Understand Your Market

Emma Sinclair, Co-Founder of EnterpriseJungle, observed:

Americans are clued up and discerning. They want the latest thing but they want it quickly at their fingertips.

This makes it important for SMEs to get real-time insights on what people want.

While software behemoths Oracle and Adobe offer all-inclusive social marketing and relationship management products for the enterprise, a social media listening and monitoring tool such as Oktopost can be a good choice for a small to medium business.

You need to put in place a process to analyze metrics for individual profiles to entire campaigns, and optimize your social messaging to improve conversions.

Features like geo-targeting ensure messages reach the right audience by posting content that targets specific geographic regions.

2. Respect Diversity

For Tim Rhodes of Aquaforno, the 3-in-1 BBQ, pizza oven and patio heater maker, the trip was a valuable lesson on America’s diversity. Managing director at UPS, George Willis, said:

The U.S. is really a patchwork of small countries with different laws, geographies, cultures and consumption rather than one streamlined marketplace.

This makes it very important for brands to tune in to regional voices instead of treating them as one. The best way to get the feel of the new land is research, polls and surveys. Various product tests based on psychological profiling can prove to be valuable.

Based on the findings of your survey, you can work out the brand voice, tone of your content, and deals and promotions that give you better chances of business success.

3. Befriend Advocates and Influencers

Another keynote speaker in the event was Ashley Grice, managing director of Iris Worldwide. She advocated finding influencers who might help promote your brand. The way to get started with this, in Grice’s words, is to “scour the internet to figure out where you’re being talked about” and identify the people who “gravitate towards your brand.” Then get in contact with them, introduce your new product, and tell them why they might like it.

A key insight that any social media pro will vouch for is that personalized and relevant messages work best for “conversion,” be that a sale or simply getting a Facebook fan to visit your website.

4. Showcase Your Products

Branding expert Stephen Gans said that social media is relevant to each and every product category, contrary to popular belief. He cited the example of Sugru, a company that makes glue which can stick almost anything under the sun. They could easily strike up a deal with U.S. home improvement retailer Home Depot, which has a huge community with well-known do-it-yourself experts, and do a few demos on the latter’s YouTube and Vine channels.

Bare Conductive, one of the most talked about winners of the campaign, makes electric paint that acts like a conductive wire so you can cold solder, repair PCBs, or paint graphical circuits and sensors on any surface. Imagine the revolution they can create on Instructables and LifeHacker!

Adding onto that, guest speaker Gary Lee believed that it’s time for brands to develop and execute “omnipresence” strategies. Omnipresence is ensuring the customer’s success at every touchpoint along their entire journey, not just the purchase. It’s about making your brand present and relevant to customers along the entire buying cycle, from discovery to advocacy.

For example, a DIY brand could focus on Pinterest, Houzz, and other home decor websites where consumers turn to inspiration. The brand could then offer ideas in their physical store to help customers find the right products, setups and tools to pull off the exact look they’d imagined. Post-purchase instructional videos and online guides on how to set up and use your products would be another useful step in completing the buying experience.

5. Integrate with Other Digital Marketing Channels

Roger Lopez of Sideqik, in his dual capacity as head of digital school at the Atlanta Technology Development Center, stressed the importance of using online resources and tools for implementing digital and ecommerce strategies. He recommended SEMrush, Open Site Explorer and SimilarWeb to analyze your digital marketing campaigns.

Rohan Ayyar is a web analytics and conversion optimization specialist at E2M, a premium digital marketing agency. You can find his articles on 20+ major business publications including Fast Company and Entrepreneur, and hit him up on Twitter at @searchrook.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.