5 Things Small Business Owners Can Do Today to Get Ahead Using Social

If you’re like me, on occasion, you like to go out and eat. A nice meal. Not too expensive. In a nice environment. With good service. Then take photos of the food. In the middle of dinner, clicking away and posting to the Internet.

This type of word of mouth can be great for a business. Or, if ignored, it can really harm your business.

Hong Kong is notorious for food critics. Good and bad.

Some of the best can make a restaurant famous overnight, or crush it with the stroke of a send command.

For this reason, local reviewers have developed a reputation for being a little more effective at letting people know when they don’t approve.

My three favorite types of reviewers in Hong Kong are the;

The fast-food connoisseurs who tweet

“Omg, this BK is the worst ever. Walked by this BK tonight and thought I’d give it a try… Should have kept walking.”

The “The Luxury Dinners” post

“Oysters weren’t tasty. Duck breast risotto was too moist. Garlic breads had no garlic. Escargot had no taste of escargot. Service was terrible. Vodka tasted like pure alcohol.”

And my favorite, the bargain hunters who blog

“This place is a total rip-off. Totally over-priced. Tapas: Garlic shrimp: 3 small shrimps for HK$70. So expensive and very small.”

The problem is that most chefs and restaurant owners haven’t really got a handle on how to use social media. Few have solid social media strategies in place, and even fewer use it to their advantage, to bring in business during the slow times, or to showcase innovation or differentiate themselves.

It’s not hard to get started.

5 Tips So You Can Start Listening Today

Listen to what people are saying about you on the Web. There are many ways to do this, regardless of your marketing budgets.

1. Set up a Google Alert: Start by setting up a Google Alert to email you every time your company or brand is mentioned in the news, in a blog, in a tweet, or anywhere else on the Web. You’ll be amazed at how this helps you keep track of your successful PR activities, your negative PR, and even your competitors. Set it up here for free.

2. Try a social media aggregator: If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can set yourself up on HootSuite to manage multiple social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, Foursquare, and Google+. You can see everything in one place, respond directly, and keep on top of your online reputation.

3. Get on the most used platforms: Start with Facebook, with a minimum presence, and ensure your brand logo and address is correct. Ensure your address and phone number are listed correctly in a Google search, if not set up a Google+ page for your business. Get a Twitter handle and listen to what people are tweeting about your service and your products on Twitter. Open an Instagram account and check out your competitors. Try out WeChat and see how many of your customers will add your business for a small incentive like a free drink.

4. Be aware of the smaller and fast-growing platforms: Look at who is checking into your venues on Foursquare. Listen to what people are tweeting about your service and your products on Twitter.

5. Look at the specialty platforms: Follow what people are saying about your business on the review platforms that build their business around what people say, like the hugely popular TripAdvisor and OpenRice.

Be Part of the Conversation

Once you are listening to what people are saying about your brand or business, think about ways to respond to what people are saying. You will be surprised at how a passionately negative person can become your biggest advocate if you listen, acknowledge, and respond with empathy and compassion. People want to tell their friends about good experiences.

There are many ways to let someone know you heard them:

1. Respond directly and privately with a direct message (DM).

2. Ask them to email you directly; take the conversation offline.

3. Publicly thank them, and ask them to come back for another visit.

Tip 6: My advice is to keep it private, even if the message is false, unless you are offering public praise or thanks. I have been in situations where a competitor was driving conversations in public on purpose, posing as a customer, and trying to create a public discussion.

Surprises Generate Buzz

Tip 7: Random Acts of kindness (R.A.K) can be unexpected and go a long way to build word of mouth. One of my favorite examples of the R.A.K is the KLM Airlines Surprise. By “Counter-Googling” a “Foursquare check-in,” then finding an emotional connection by looking at the “public profile” of the target person, the brand is able to create an instant little R.A.K.


Social media is just word of mouth, at the speed of digital.

It’s easy to master it if you pay attention to the conversations, have an empathetic ear, and put yourself in the shoes of others.

If you’re not listening to what the conversation is, you cannot contribute to changing it or amplifying it. Don’t be afraid to dive in and get to know how these tools work.

I’d like to see more brands and small business share the exciting activities they plan everyday with the world over these modern ways of reaching people.

Remember, a new customer is just a friend you haven’t met yet.

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