The proper use of social media tools can both drive direct sales and, more importantly, build and enhance long-term customer relationships. Here are some ways to make social media marketing work for your small business:

▪ Offer special coupons or discounts. Provide special offers to Facebook or Twitter followers. Not only will they be glad they follow your company, but they may also share those offers with others, expanding your social media fan base in the process.

▪ Create product or service videos. Videos posted to YouTube are an inexpensive way to highlight your products, provide how-to information and spread the word about your brand. Videos need not be formal or professionally produced. In some cases, the more amateur your video appears, the more credibility you gain. Another great way to market your business and product online through video is by utilizing Facebook Live.

▪ Extend special services to followers. Those who interact with your business on social media tend to be loyal, satisfied customers. Reward them: Create a customer appreciation event followers can access. Make the event worthwhile, and you not only cement the relationship with current customers, but you can also create incentives for potential customers to follow your company.

▪ Run contests or other events. Say you want to give away a product. To be eligible, customers must visit your website or “like” one of your company pages on social media in order to enter the contest. Spread the news of the contest through Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. People are much more likely to share the information with their friends through social media than through other means, since sharing is incredibly easy. In the meantime, you drive traffic directly to your website.

▪ Expand search results. More and more people search for products, services, reviews and other information on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and even Pinterest. A presence on these social media sites can place your company higher on search results lists.

How can you know if your social media marketing efforts are paying off? The simplest strategy is to create promotions that are tied directly to the social media you use. For example, if you run a special and only publicize that event on Facebook, you can tie increased sales directly to your Facebook campaign. The same is true with coupons; create a coupon specific to the social media you use and track the results.

As you would with any type of marketing, experiment with social media. Evaluate your results and try new tactics when ones you are using don’t work. Over time you can refine your social media marketing campaigns to better drive direct sales and build customer relationships.

This news is provided as a service to you by Marlin Business Services Corp., a nationwide leader in commercial lending solutions for the U.S. small business sector. Marlin’s equipment financing and loan programs are available directly and through third-party vendor programs, including manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers, to deliver financing and working capital that help build your success.