Your products are fabulous.  Your customer service is second to none.  Your website is pretty good too (no need for modesty here) and your customers love you.

But telling people who don’t already know about you can be expensive, and keeping in touch with those who do is not a straight forward process either.

Luckily, social networks give you the opportunity to connect with thousands of potential customers who may be desperate for what you’re selling.  They can also be a great way of talking to existing buyers.

As if you needed any more reasons, here are four ways social media can pack a punch for your marketing in 2013.

1. Find out what your customers want

Market research can cost thousands with a professional agency, and it can take months to source a representative sample, conduct primary and secondary research, review the findings and draw definitive conclusions.

If only there was a way to get inside the minds of your customers without this investment of time and money…. Of course there is a way, and it’s right in front of you.

Conversations on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can give you a valuable insight into what your customers worry about, what they value, how they talk and how you could better meet their needs.

Tip – find Facebook groups and pages, Twitter users and LinkedIn groups that are popular with the type of people who buy your products.  See how they talk, what they ask, what gets them excited and interested – and use your findings to improve your marketing, and maybe even your products.

2.  Stay in control of your reputation

Hurricane Sandy killed 253 people, left millions without power for days and caused $63bn in damage, and yet clothing retailer Gap turned the natural disaster into a commercial one after posting the following insensitive tweet to Twitter:

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It has since been deleted, but social networks are awash with tasteless tweets – don’t add to them.

Tip: Monitor your online reputation by setting up Google alerts for your company, and ensure you respond swiftly and appropriately to any feedback, queries or complaints.

3.  Be inspired with new ideas

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When Coca Cola introduced a new flavour of VitaminWater, their Facebook fans played a key role in the taste of the drink and the design of the packaging.

When Coca Cola was looking to introduce a new VitaminWater flavour, it turned to its 2 million VitaminWater Facebook fans.  They had input into every aspect of product development, from the taste to the design of the packaging.

An active social media following is a valuable resource to any business:

  • Test out new product ideas
  • Get feedback on your marketing materials
  • Look for possible new markets
  • Learn the language of your audience (and use it)

Tip: Ask your online connections what they like most about your business, why they buy from you, and what they wish you’d do differently.  You might just discover something to transform your business in 2013.

4.  Do it when it suits you

There’s a networking event in my local town that I’d love to attend – but it’s at 08:00 in the morning, when I’m dropping my son at reception class.  If only I could change the time of the event to a more convenient one.

Thankfully social media lets you be a bit more flexible with your online networking – using social media management tools (such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck) you can schedule your posts to publish whenever you want.

You can be on the school run and posting to Twitter at the same time, or serving a customer and publishing a blog post mid-conversation.  You can even write your Facebook posts over lunch and delay publishing them until the middle of the night when you’re fast asleep.

Tip: Use free tools to ensure your social networks are buzzing with regular fresh content.

Don’t miss any more opportunities – those fabulous products aren’t going to sell themselves….

What do you love most about social networking?  Let us know in the comments below.