When you think of apps and social media, you probably think of them as things consumers use, or things you can sell, right?

They are both something that consumers use, and lately, businesses have gotten a firm hold on using social media to market their business. But one channel, apps, are not being used to their full potential.

As a business owner, there are some ways you can be using apps to interact and personalize your brand with both potential and existing customers. They are great tools to grow your small business.

Whether you’re looking to improve your social reach or your foot traffic, there are ways to leverage apps to improve your marketing ability using social media’s raging fad, selfies.

We’ll start with the single most important element of social media – the selfie.

Using Selfies to Promote Yourself and Your Business

There is a very simple truth in social media. People love taking pictures of themselves. Taking pictures of things has evolved into taking pictures of yourself in front of things.

Why do people do it? Well, the most common answer is that it’s for attention. That’s an oversimplification, but there is no doubt that it does indeed draw attention. Posting pictures of your face lets people know who you are and what you look like, and gets followers to associate a face with a name.

If you think about it, that sounds a lot like … marketing, doesn’t it? Indeed, there are many ways you can use selfies to market yourself.

The first is to show yourself. If you think your company needs some personality, then give it some – yours! Plenty of businesses have their founders or general managers also act as their PR figure, and with good reason. Remember Dave Thomas?

Now more than ever, people are wary of the “faceless company.” Showing a human side to your work has become increasingly important to establishing a lasting relationship with your customers. Showing your face as a brand manager or taking a down-to-earth approach to social media is a sure way to get noticed in an environment where corporate messaging tactics are going in one ear and out the other dozens of times a day.

Social Media Pointers

If you’re going to try becoming the “face” of your brand with social media, keep a few pointers in mind.

  • Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. These are your starting points. Just because a social media network has a lot of pictures on it doesn’t mean it’s useful for marketing. Looking at you, Pinterest and Tumblr.
  • Don’t just post a professional headshot of yourself. Show some personality!
  • Social media has a tendency to celebrate the mundane. You don’t have to post pictures of yourself at the Eiffel Tower; it can just be you cooking dinner or something.
  • You don’t always have to be promoting something with every single post. If you’re going to take the personality marketing approach, just being yourself is enough. Your goal with this strategy is to create a personable, likable image for yourself, and by extension, your company.
  • Of course, when we’re talking about using selfies for marketing, it doesn’t just have to be yours.

Leveraging Followers’ Selfies and Posts

If you have any sort of social media presence, that means you have (at least a few!) followers. And the reason you have followers is because there are people who want to be engaged with your brand.

This relationship works for you – give them an opportunity to make their content your content! There are a bunch of ways to do this. One of the most popular methods is a selfie contest, which involves asking people to take a selfie with a product or location associated with your brand.

In a lot of cases, you’ll have to incentivize the contest to get it off the ground. That doesn’t always mean giving something away, though. Sometimes, the promise of exposure alone is enough to get people excited (i.e. “We’ll feature the winning selfie on our website/social media!”). This type of personalization is more effective the larger the brand.

Alternatively, have people take and share a selfie in your place of business in exchange for a small discount.

Using Apps and Location to Drive Interest

For a couple of weeks there, Pokemon Go was the hottest thing on the planet. It took over news broadcasts, sent people out walking around at all hours of the day, and drove a ton of traffic to local businesses.

Within days of the game’s release, Yelp established a way to identify key game locations to help drive traffic. Yelp’s ability to capitalize off of Pokemon Go was an example of leveraging an app (even one that has nothing to do with you or your business) to drive traffic and interest.

Now, Pokemon Go is a trendier example, and it faded as fast as it came. But the mobile app technologies at the core of the game – beacons and geofencing – are still making waves for businesses that know how to use them.

These technologies work by sensing the user’s location in relation to things around them. Geofences and beacons are why you see people “check in” at certain locations. If you’re a local retailer or business, you can use geofencing to send push alerts or messages to people with your app when they enter a certain radius (presumably your location).

A push to a person’s phone about your nearby location might just be enough to drive some foot traffic – because if they care enough about your brand to have your app, they’re probably willing to stop in when they’re close.

Of course, once you have them close by, don’t stop there. Offer discounts for checking in or loyalty bonuses for following you on social media! Bring the selfie back into the fold – having a customer excitedly walk into your business, post a happy selfie to their Facebook or Instagram and talk about what they’re doing there is effective word-of-mouth advertising to everybody on that person’s friend list.

In other words, you just got several hundred people to associate your business with their friend’s smiling face. As a business owner, you should understand how valuable that is, especially if you can extrapolate it to a bunch more people.

Conclusion

As entrepreneurs, you can never stop looking into new ways to engage your audience and build new ones. The best way to start is to put yourself out there.

Be personable, either as a business or as a business owner. Don’t be afraid to show your human side – even if it seems unprofessional. Be funny, be silly, show your personality. Arby’s is a great example of a major company that embraced a brash, risky marketing style, and they’ve seen huge dividends from it.

And finally, be where your customers are. Get them engaged and excited about what you’re doing. Give them a reason to come to you and to talk about you.

Social marketing is word-of-mouth with a megaphone, times a thousand. Understanding how to navigate that landscape will make your marketing efforts cost less and do more.

Erin Schollaert is the founder and CEO of Main Street Mobile Apps, a mobile app development company with a vision of giving small businesses affordable 21st-century marketing tools. Her goal is to develop and create solutions that support small and medium size businesses in small communities. Erin and her company truly believe successful small businesses foster a sense of community and face-to-face relationships that are vital in today’s rapidly evolving technological world. Check out Erin and Main Street Mobile Apps on: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+