You just have to say the words, and people will follow you. Or so the ‘experts’ would have you believe. In fact the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report found 90% of the 3000+ marketers agreed with the statement that “Social Media is important to Business”.
But what if you are a small business that just wants to attract new customers? What if you are a business that deals with other businesses? Is social media still a viable channel for you to navigate?
According to the report, small business owners are the ones who should benefit the most with new partnerships, improved sales and reductions in marketing costs. They are also twice as likely to find qualified leads.
But when the report notes a reduction in the cost of marketing in this fashion, it is speaking in strictly monetary terms, and as every small business owner knows, it’s the time cost that sometimes weighs heaviest. There are just not enough hours in the day for many owners. The report also noted that those who put in six hours or more per week benefited most, and that those who had been involved in social media for longer periods are also more likely to be seeing better results.
No-one can deny the potential reach of these platforms. In Australia it is estimated that half the population use Facebook, while world-wide it’s expected to have a billion users before too long. Twitter too is growing and evolving. LinkedIn in Australia celebrated its two millionth member this month.
So there are great numbers of people involved. But is social media good for the corner store? The local printer? The dentist? I’d give it a tick, but with a couple of provisos.
Firstly, ask yourself can you find an hour a day at least to monitor your Facebook page. You’ll need more than that really, because Twitter almost demands real time responses, and you will want to learn more on how to maximise the benefits, and investigate other ways you can use social media.
Secondly, ask yourself what you want to get from this exercise. Are you looking to increase the number of people walking through the door, or do you want to get to know the people who walk through your door regularly? No right or wrong here, but like any marketing exercise, start with the end in mind, and have some idea of what success will look like.
Thirdly, this isn’t all about you. Social media when used in a business sense is all about them – the followers, friends and connections you make. Demonstrate that you care about them, have some degree of expertise that could benefit them, and wait for the karma train to pull in to your platform.
Finally, if being actively involved is too much, consider marketing your business on these platforms. While Twitter doesn’t off this service (yet), Facebook ads can be extremely targeted, and provide the analytics to easily judge the effectiveness of your offering. LinkedIn recently opened itself up to ads too, although it could be argued that having a profile on that site is an ad in itself.
So, what will you do with social media?