“I don’t do Twitter”: The benefits of small businesses using social media
Love it or hate it, social media continues to sweep across the globe.
A past study in the US showed that 71% of social media users were more likely to purchase from a brand they follow online, with 15% of consumers using social networking sites to search for local businesses.
While it can feel like a bit of a jump for some business owners, it’s no longer something that we can turn a blind eye to and ignore – particularly when Facebook boasts 1.87 billion users and Twitter 317 million. In fact, a staggering 37% of the world’s population – that’s 2.8 billion people! – are active social media users, according to Global Web Index.
Whether you sell to other companies or consumers, here are just a few benefits of small businesses using social media:
Whether or not social media will remain free in the long term is unclear, but right now many of the platforms are, so small businesses really should consider capitalising on this. Do you have new products you wish to shout about, or a special offer your customers will love, but can’t afford a fancy newspaper, television or billboard ad? Well, the likes of Twitter and Facebook are the perfect place to get your brand and USPs out to thousands of people and companies for the price we all love: nothing. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that your social media strategy must encompass more than pure sales messages if you are to fully engage with potential customers.
It’s both a positive and a negative that there are so many social media sites to consider. Although it means businesses need to be selective over which platforms they use and keep up with the newest entrants, the biggest plus is that it means there are plenty which can add value to your business. Whether your business would benefit from providing links to case studies, posting videos or sharing photos, there really is something for everyone.
Real-time and ongoing conversations
Social media can provide a real-time update of your company’s activities as well as an opportunity to interact directly with your customers, which is something that can be skilfully utilised if you’re clever about it. Whether you receive a question about how your service works, a customer service related issue or a simple query, it’s a great place to have conversations with different people and should be embraced. Yes, it will be in the public domain, but it may answer questions that other potential prospects also have and even encourage them to get in touch, too.
Rapid word of mouth and instant feedback
Word of mouth is playing an increasing role in buying decisions for all industries. And the brilliant thing about social media is that, with so many people in one place, positive feedback can be easily shared amongst thousands of people at the click of a button. Obviously this also means negative feedback and comments can travel fast, but if handled delicately and instantly, fires can very easily be put out. Plus, users love the fact that they can come to you and get a direct answer and response, rather than going through the telephones and speaking to automated messages. If you’re honest and open with customers, they’re more likely to come back and inform their followers of your good customer service.
Show your human side
People love people but, for some reason, press releases and traditional advertising still tend to be heavily polished, corporate sales messages. Social media allows you to talk to people on a more informal and personal level, rather than pushing a broad brush sales pitch. For example, if you were interested in buying a good book for your children, would you listen to the bookseller who says: “This is currently in the buy two get one free offer” or the one who says: “As a mother, I read this to my two kids and they found it hilarious!”? And by sharing a combination of interesting, funny and diverse messages, your followers are more likely not to mind when you subtly weave in your salesy tweets and statuses.
A chance to be creative
As mentioned earlier, not all small businesses are armed with the marketing budgets of their larger competitors, so social media can provide an opportunity to get creative without having to invest thousands of pounds. Be it posting pictures and videos or launching competitions, social media is a great way to think outside the box and interact with customers in a variety of methods. Such campaigns carry even greater impact if integrated with your other marketing channels.
Get down with the kids
Still not convinced? Well, unfortunately, whether you like it or not there is a new online generation growing that will ultimately become your customer base in the coming years. So even if you feel you don’t have it in you to be a social media guru, it’s becoming more and more essential that you have some kind of a presence. By setting yourself up on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, for example, and updating your statuses daily, you will at least create the illusion to your internet savvy consumers that you’re embracing new technology and know what you’re doing!