5 ways small businesses can make money using social media

From restaurateurs and realtors to landscapers and accountants, here’s how they can all make money. Skeptical? Read on.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: No CEO thinks that cool trumps revenue, and you shouldn’t either.

Experts who tell you how “cool” social media is and how it’s good for only “your brand” are full of it. I’m sick of these snake oil salesmen posing as “social media gurus,” charging you thousands of dollars to listen to them tell you how they can help. Stop believing the charlatans who show you 100 Twitter followers and expect you to believe that they can cure cancer.

Here are five ways that your small to mid-size business can use social media to generate revenue today.

1. If you run a restaurant. Get to know tools like Foursquare and Facebook Places. Teach your servers to recognize the signs of someone who uses Foursquare, Places, or the like: They keep their device on the table or they talk about “checking in.” Have those servers ask their customers if they use those location-based games. If they do, have the servers offer a free drink or appetizer.

Explain what it means to be a “mayor,” and why that’s beneficial to your establishment. Explain to them why they should help your customers use these technologies. Most important, explain to your servers that they represent your establishment, and without them, your restaurant is history. The goal is to get customers to come back, bring friends, and spend more money. It’s not about social media, it’s about growing your restaurant.

2. If you have a landscaping business. Want to use social media to get more clients and make more money? Buy a good digital camera or video camera. Check out the Canon G11—I use it and love it. Made an amazing lawn? Shoot it! Made some kind of waterfall, the type that I can only imagine because I live on the 30th floor of a high-rise in New York City? Take a video, post it on Vimeo.com, and let people see it. That’s real social media because you’ve done it and are sharing it. It’s not about social media, it’s about showing things you’ve done that will bring new paying clients.

3. If you’re an accountant/financial planner. How about starting a Twitter feed that you populate daily with the top two stories about your industry? “What will this five minutes out of my day possibly do,” you ask? Well, if you’re an accountant/financial planner trying to grow your business and get new customers, check this out:

You post one or two stories per day about your industry—perhaps they’re the stories you find interesting and think others might find interesting—and people find them, retweet them and repost them on Facebook. All of sudden, you’re one of those people who knows about the trends before they become trends. What happens then? The media starts to follow you, and you get quoted in the paper, on TV, on the radio, and online. And new people start calling you out of the blue, asking if they can be your clients.

Face it, this isn’t rocket science. You’re simply employing common sense—something the charlatans won’t tell you actually works—because it takes away from their revenue. Screw them. Make their revenue yours. It’s not about social media, it’s about using these tools to prove you know more than your competitors and are better than them and deserve new client business.

4. If you’re a realtor. If you’re a realtor, social media is screaming for you to pay attention. What are you selling? Location, image, and the like. You should have a digital camera with video inserted under your skin. Your industry was born for social media.

A new property comes on the market? Get video of the best parts of it, but not the traditional boring shots of the kitchen or front of the property. Is there a swing set in the back? Shoot video of the house from the swing set—it’s different, and anyone with kids will appreciate it. Selling mostly to families with school-age kids? Take the Flip cam, duct-tape it to the grill of your car, and show, in real time, how close the best school in the district is to the house. Why? Because no one else is doing it, and that’s something different. And let’s face it, realtor, if you’re using social media, you’re doing it to make a good commission. So take these ideas and build on them. Why? Because they’ll sell properties. It’s not about social media, it’s about showing through this new technology that you’re going to help sell or buy a home for someone who wants it.

5. If you’re a moving company: Last time I moved, I went online to ask for recommendations for good moving companies. You know what I got? Companies who didn’t screw my friends; recommendations to the companies who sucked the least. Really? Is that how you want to help grow your industry? By being thought of as the company that sucks the least?

How about this: You offer your next client 15 percent off the cost of their move if they allow you to film the entire move. How do you do that? You go to Amazon and buy three GoPro helmet cams. Then ask a few of your best movers to wear them on their next move. They put them on their heads, and the GoPro films everything they do. The GoPro films your best movers being oh-so-careful with the client’s property. When the move is done, you’ve got two hours of video. That’s boring. But, what if you take that film, speed it up so that the entire video is 60 seconds long, and add a fun soundtrack to it (Think the Benny Hill TV show theme) and that becomes the first thing people see when they hit your website.

They get funny, yet real, video of a real person’s belongings being taken care of, and you get… wait for it … a new client. How about that? You’ve just used social media to land countless new clients. Cost: About $150 for the GoPro. It’s not about social media, it’s about proving that when a potential client needs you, you can back up your claims with real-world examples that will turn potential clients into real clients.

Peter Shankman is the founder of Help A Reporter Out, CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc. He blogs at http://shankman.com and is on Twitter @petershankman.

This article originally ran on his blog, where you can read the full post.

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