by Stacy Herrick, Communications Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org
As most people know by now, social media is not just a passing fad. It is becoming a way of life. And for small business owners, social media is beginning to play a larger role in their marketing and advertising tactics.
According to the National Small Business Association, 73 percent of small businesses were using social media in 2013. This number is a major increase from the 47 percent that were using it in 2010. The increase could be due to a variety of factors, such as wider availability, better understanding of how social media works or people realizing that it is not just a trend that is going to eventually go away. However, the real takeaway from these numbers is the reality that social media is playing a larger role for small businesses and how important it is to be involved.
A lot of us have our own personal Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, but what are the benefits of your small business using social media?
When marketing budgets are small, or non-existent, social media grants the user the opportunity to engage with audiences using social networks for free. All it takes to connect is the time to create a profile for your company on whatever site you want to use. From there, your business can begin connecting to other businesses and, more importantly, customers. For an added boost to your presence, ad space can be purchased through these networks; however, it is not always necessary.
Different companies approach social media in different ways. Some choose to keep everything straight-laced and strictly business, while others will interject their personality into their profile and posts, making light of situations and giving them a human quality. There is no right or wrong approach to this; it is all in how a business wants to be viewed. Taking your audience into consideration when planning your business’s online personality is key. Are they the type of people that want just the facts, or do they prefer engaging with your business like you’ve been long-time friends?
Social media is one of the easiest ways to handle customer service. Users feel more of a personal connection using networks such as Facebook and Twitter to talk about an interaction with a company. This allows a company to directly address a customer’s specific problem or request with a personalized, direct response.
On the other side of this, thanks to social media, people also expect a faster and more personalized experience compared to the past when all they could do was blindly send an email, write a letter or call a customer service line and receive a generic, scripted response.
According to a LinkedIn survey, learning plays a major role in why many small businesses are on social media. It gives them “access to a network of peers to ask questions or get recommendations,” letting them learn from the experts in their industry and obtain best practices. By seeing how other successful small businesses are managing their accounts, it may give them ideas in how they could be utilizing those platforms for themselves.
The point of all of this is to show that no matter what industry your small business is in or which customer segment you are trying to reach, there is likely going to be an audience for it on social media — it is effective, wide-reaching and free.
To read more about social media and small businesses, read the full article in the Fall/Winter issue of Extension Matters and check back next week for the second part of this article.