How to Leverage Social Media to Gain Referrals


One of the biggest complaints I hear from business owners is that “social media doesn’t work.”  Business owners tell me all the time that the reach is too low on Facebook, their tweets get lost in cyber space, or their hours optimizing a graphic for Pinterest was all for naught. 

Social media can be very frustrating, but it does work. I know because it is what skyrocketed my career to success. 

At 19, I started a Facebook business page for my photography services.  At the time, Facebook’s algorithm was very different, but the concept behind my marketing strategy is still the same.  I never started a website, a Twitter, a Pinterest, or any other marketing outlet.  In fact, I never spent a dime on promotion. 

Now that doesn’t mean that you should put all your eggs in the Facebook basket today.  Marketing has evolved a lot since I was a teenager, but the same concepts I used to create my success then, has only maximized my success now with new ways to increase my business leads. 

But back then, and by the time I was 21, I had paid off my graduate degree – and before my second semester started!  Granted, I had a little help from the multiple jobs I worked, scholarships, and in general, busting my ass, but the truth was the same.  I graduated debt free…and I owe my success to Facebook. 

The key to using Facebook and social media platforms is to build relationships (at this point, you’ve heard me say this 1000 times).  But there is a reason why it is so important.  Once relationships are built, thought-leadership becomes present, and when your products/service shine through, the referrals come. 

As a young freelancer in college, all my business came from Facebook.  I was a photographer and every photo was tagged with clients, every comment popped up in a mutual friend’s news feed, and all my availability was listed on the page.  I must have had a thousand messages over my college years.  That’s a lot of leads in a short period of time for a side hustle.  And where did those leads come from?  Other potential buyers seeing my work online or seeing a mutual friend posting about my work.  That’s the power of social media and that’s the magic you need to tap into as a small business owner. 

When I speak to business owners, they claim that while social media is “useless” to them, referrals bring in a large portion of their business.  While referrals may be a large part of their business model, when you really evaluate your business, where do the referrals come from?  Would it happen to be followers on your Facebook page?  Family members and friends who are consistently reminded about you from posts of yours popping up into their news feed?  An influencer you met on LinkedIn that you messaged a couple times?

While referrals can also come from a conversation at a vendor event or from a conversation that was struck up at a BBQ, in general, purchasers go to social media first to ensure that a business has good reviews, has contact information present, and an active page before making the decision to purchase or visit.  Your social media channels are most likely working for you behind the scenes.  The difference is you may only see the direct results from referrals because when people tell you they hear about your business, they may have found it in multiple places – including a recommendation from a friend. 

Social media is vital and it can bring you additional referrals if you use it right. Below are my top ways for naturally gaining referrals on social media:

  1. Tag friends or former clients you are close with in important information online.  The loyal ones will comment and share, or tag friends they think would be interested too. 
  2. Consistently engage back with followers that engage with you.  Instead of saying “thank you,” elaborate by asking what their struggles and needs are.  The more you keep them responding to you, the more their trust and relationship with you will grow.  At the same time, the algorithm will put your content in their friends’ news feeds (and others!), which exposes more people to your page. 
  3. Always direct them to advice or tips that can help them.  If you are asking the right questions, a commenter may open up about things they need assistance with or products they are interested in.  This is when you can link them (in a comment, which doesn’t affect the algorithm) to a piece of content you’ve written or a web page that has a product you think they may be interested in.  Solving a customer’s needs through a public conversation increases the chances that they will act on it and refer you to others. 
  4. Have excellent customer service online.  If public customer service is on point, others will notice. 
  5. Encourage purchasers to share their stories online about you.  This can be repping a product they bought from you or a review or a service success.  I always encouraged my clients to share their successes and rewarded them for speaking about me online. 
  6. Share visual content about your customers.  For example, shout-outs that tag a purchaser or client can help bring additional people to your page now that they know a friend has purchased from you. 

How do you gain referrals?  What techniques would you add to this list?

Want to learn my favorite social media platform options for marketing online?  Get access to my FREE marketing guide for military spouse and veteran entrepreneurs. 

Military Marketing GuruJenny Hale is a marketing and social media consultant, coach, and teacher for military spouse and veteran business owners.  Nicknamed “The Military Social Media Guru,” she uses her background working with military non-profits, corporate companies, the Army, and as an entrepreneur to help others struggling to meet their business dreams.  With the goal of bridging the gap between the military community’s marketing efforts to civilians and vice versa,  Jenny works to make an entrepreneur’s vision come to life.  You can follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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