Social media for SMB’s: asset or waste of time?

Social media for SMB’s: asset or waste of time?

There is no doubt about the influence of social networks on our lives. A simple tweet can bring down the price of company shares on the stock market, or a video can make the whole world addicted to K-pop. But what does it mean for businesses?

social-media-questions

Are social media really so essential? When we see that 2/3 of the world population has a profile on a social network and 400 million tweets are sent per day, the answer seems obvious. But, as with most things, it comes down to a combination of considerations to really determine how to be effective as a business over social media networks.

 

SOME QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK YOURSELF BEFORE GETTING STARTED ON SOCIAL NETWORKS

If you are a small organization with limited resources, it is necessary to think about the goals you wish to achieve by launching a new strategy that will cost you time or money, or both.

1. Why would I want to do this? (The answer “because everyone does” is not the right reason)

2. How much time and/or money am I willing to spend on social media?

3. Should I even expect a return on investment while I am establishing my social presence?

SOME SOCIAL MEDIA CONCEPTS THAT DO NOT WORK FOR SMBs

 “We will increase our sales through social media”

It is extremely difficult today to measure the return on investment of a strategy based on social media because this requires transforming human interactions in quantitative data. You can use measuring tools such as Google analytics, Klout, Pinpuff, etc. to discover more about user behaviors, but social networks are by nature extremely difficult waters to navigate for marketers and that problem is compounded at a local and hyper local level.

 “We will increase our brand awareness and enhance our brand through social networks.”

facebook

In 2011, Facebook introduced “people talking about” metric. This is the number of Facebook fans who interacted with your page during the last 7 days. After two years of hindsight, it is interesting to note the large amount of SMBs page with over 5,000 fans and 15 people interacting. Is an active page with little interaction better than no page at all?

“We will improve our position in Google with social media.”

Google is the only one to know which social networks influence ranking and search placement in their Search Engine’s results. While we can be certain some networks do influence the ranking, such as Youtube and Google+ (it’s likely no coincidence that both companies belong to Google), Google’s position is that participation in other mainstream networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, provides no positive influence on search rankings.

ARE SOCIAL MEDIA NECESSARY TO INSURE THE ONLINE SUCCESS OF YOUR BUSINESS?

Large companies are able to apply creative and inventive techniques over social media to create audience engagement, focusing on a trend or creating a buzz to keep their online audience spellbound. The more popular strategies include contests, video teasers, coupons, discounts, promotional gifts, etc., all of which come at considerable cost to the company.

If you are a large enough brand, such as Coca-cola, Danone or Barack Obama, there is no doubt social media is an important part of today’s marketing strategy. For large brands, marketing on social media makes sense because of their broad audience appeal. Consumers expect to see promotional information and advertising regardless of where they are investing their time. But, for a small business with a limited budget there is no real way to create sufficient local audience around special offers, or other realistically achievable marketing strategies, making the road to gaining ‘likes’, ‘fans’ and ‘followers’ very complicated unless you have the capability to generate meaningful, compelling, content for your target audience.

TIPS FOR SMBs

1. Focus on one or two social networks. Sometimes less is more.

2. Do it in-house; you know your company and customers better than any agency.

3. Use social etiquette; do not talk only about yourself, your company and your products. Participate in the broader social narrative by sharing opinions, articles you liked, industry blog posts, etc.

4. Do not overestimate the impact of social networks on your results. Do not underestimate the time you’ll have to spend on it, either.

5. Be creative. Though easier said than done, not simply copying the strategies of others is one factor that can help you stand out in the crowd. You don’t need to come up with something as viral as Flash Mobs, the Harlem Shake, Cute Animals, etc., etc., you simply need to find a way to best represent who your company is and how they are valuable to the local community. Find your own style!

Finally, it needs to be stressed that without some type of regular, and engaging, social media output, be it light-hearted or informative, the social media networks of SMBs are going to be filled mainly by family, friends, and friends of friends. So, before you embark on your own social media adventure, take a little time to think about what social media works best for you and view it as an investment in the future. When done right, it can be a great way to extend your network of loyal customers. When done wrong, it can be off putting and diminish your appeal to potential customers.

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