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Making social media work

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. can all help businesses connect with customers. These may be easy to use, however making it work for your business unfortuanately takes time and effort. But once that effort has been done, the rewards can be great.

Choose your platforms carefully

Not all social media platforms are right for every business. Sure, Facebook is great for most — from local businesses to big brands. Twitter is also a great real-time microblogging tool for many different types of companies. But only you can decide what’s worth your time and where your customers are.

When people hear the words 'social media' most immediately think of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But social media also includes blogging, YouTube, Google+ and a whole host of other sites. But there's a reason that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the main sites we think of when we talk about social media so, to begin with, let's start there.

Twitter is for comments, connection and quick communication. You're limited to 140 characters in your Tweets so it's like sending a text about what you're doing, what's happening, what you've read, how you can help, your opinion, your know how and more. You can search Twitter to find people talking (tweeting) about what you do and join in the conversation. Don't feel hesitant about talking to someone you don't know, it's the perfect opportunity to show what your company can do, or to ask advice from someone you respect. It's the easiest start to social media as it's open, inviting and everyone can join in.

Facebook allows you to say more and come back to conversations easily – it's about friendship and relationships. You can set up groups (I have a secret Facebook group that acts like a private forum for all my clients), promote events or share videos and photos. You can also set up a business page (or several) on Facebook to share what your business is doing openly. A Facebook business page is a perfect way to connect with clients, share feedback, act as a customer service portal, make offers and share opinions.

LinkedIn is viewed as the business social media site but it's much more than a place to list your CV. You can search connections, join active groups in your industry and interests, offer answers and ask for help. If you're in B2B you need to be using LinkedIn to make connections and have conversations. LinkedIn is also a great place to look for help and advice. Joining groups allows you to ask questions, find mentors and connect with people in your industry who have been where you are now.

Are you considered 'social' or do you simply have a presence?

A lot of businesses fail at social media. Even though you might have a presence on Twitter or Facebook, you still may not be considered “social.”

If you don’t engage your customers and fail to create two-way communication, what’s the point? You’re simply using social media as an advertising channel, not a relationship-builder. Social media is like email marketing. Can you reach a new audience with your email marketing? Likely not. But email marketing nurtures and engages with your existing audience. Sure, an email may get forwarded or shared with someone new, but that person likely isn’t going to engage with you and instantly become a customer.

Entice customers with incentives

Imagine you’re in a restaurant and see a message on the wall that says, “Like us to get a free starter.” You’d probably take a few seconds to whip out your smartphone and “like” their Facebook page in order to get the coupon.

Whatever the reason - discounts, coupons, a contest, etc. - get your customers (or potential customers) to engage so you can re-market to them to later.

The two main concerns

There are two main common concerns associated with active social media 1) the amount of time it takes and 2) finding things to tweet about.

Advantages of active social media

  • It’s easier to reach a much bigger audience.

  • You can close sales by communicating effectively and answering questions.

  • It shows you’re a real business.

  • It’s easier to build up a natural, targeted following.

Disadvantages of active social media

  • You can’t be there 24/7 and people are more likely to expect fast replies.

  • It requires a considerable investment of time, and may not be the best use of your time.

  • Thinking of things to talk about is an ongoing process which might not be sustainable.

  • It’s not necessarily a form of direct sales.

Below are some tips for making the most out of ocial media:

Save time - Schedule tweets/posts in advance and set yourself targets in terms of time and number of messages. It’s easy to get locked into a social media cycle and spend more time than you intended.

Plan ahead - Have a rough list of ideas of things to talk about and websites or articles that your followers are likely to find useful. If you’re a garden nursery, link to helpful articles about looking after plants or create your own content to share.

Be creative- Remember you don’t have to talk directly about your business, and often social media works best when you don’t. Avoid tweeting the same thing as people looking at your feed will be bored by the repetition. Anonymous case studies and testimonials (written up in the form of blog entries or website pages which you can share) can be useful if you’re in an area people don’t like to talk about.

Make clear links - Don’t make people have to work to track you down on social networks. Make sure you have obvious links on your website to your social profiles, and vice versa. If you have any old or abandoned accounts or names, make sure you either close them or post links to your new profiles.

Get people talking about you - For a short burst of activity, set up a contest where entrants share and retweet to spread the word about your business. This is also good for increasing your follower count. A good long term strategy is to set up a refer a friend/affiliate programme with links that can be easily shared via tweets. If you don’t want to mess around with code, simply ask people to use a specific hashtag or directly mention you on Twitter so you can track interest and referrals.



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