One of the biggest challenges for small, local businesses in the information age is generating a sufficient amount of new customers with little time, costs, or effort. Current customer referrals are one of the major ways businesses increase local traffic through their doors and build their client base. Being successful in specific industries requires utilizing the available resources to create unique opportunities to reach new customers.

The primary means of employing referrals in this new age of online interactions involves capitalizing on the strengths of social media to reach a wider audience and capture a larger share of the target audience. Using social media in a positive and beneficial way can send small businesses hands-free referrals with minimum expenditures of resources.

To have a successful online presence, social media should be an integral aspect of any business model for small businesses. Creating a referral program through social media is one of the least expensive methods of generating referrals for new customers. Employing one or all of the following techniques offers an efficient and easy way to bring in referrals:

  • Online Coupons: Make sure your website and online web pages are up to date with coupons and discounts available to customers. Having coupons online will peak the interest of local customers during their search and increase the likelihood they will come to your physical location. Enable current customers to share these coupons through email or Facebook links.
  • Promotions: Email provides an inexpensive method of getting out a company’s message and reaching a large number of potential customers at once. Create a blog, RSS feed, or newsletter and encourage individuals to sign up and forward the information to people they know who might be interested or in need of specific services.
  • Differentiation: Facebook and Twitter have millions of users worldwide. However, avoid limiting your promotions and activities to those two platforms. Integrate a wide range of social media to enhance your digital marketing and generate referrals. Other social media platforms include Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, BlogSpot, and online industry forums.
  • Rewards: It is helpful to ask customers who referred them to the business. Collecting this information can provide information on the top referrers. These are individuals who consistently refer new customers to the business. Offer rewards to these top referrers with discounts, free merchandise, a thank you note, or a gift card to show appreciation for their loyalty.

For small businesses wanting to expand their target audience, social media presents a cost-effective and simple method that anyone in a company can learn and implement. Encouraging referrals and having a strong presence on such websites like Facebook and Pinterest will give greater access to potential customers that more traditional forms of advertising and marketing might miss.

Businesses can analyze referrals generated from social media to determine the efficiency of your business model. This provides invaluable information that can be used to tweak methods and reach new customers through the right communication channels. Consider the ease of using social media as the opportunity it is to translate what is learned and leverage it for optimal growth.

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