Social Media For Small Business. What it is, what it does, why it matters.

Is Social Media Worth The Hype?

The past couple of years have seen everyone from “Bill’s Tanning Boutique” to BMW exploring the potential in Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Five years ago Social Media Marketing was something left to a few brave and veteran marketing executives to explore. These days it is common for marketing firms to have a Social Media Specialist. In fact just about every commercial you come across, be it television or online includes a closing scene with the company logo and the YouTube, Facebook or Twitter icon.

That’s really “hip”, but is it actually effective or just trendy? To answer that we need to define Social Media Marketing.

Social Media has huge value for those equipped and willing to see it through.

“Social Media is a hook cast out into the world wide web. It draws prospective customers to your website, to your business and finally to your products. It is an open ended door for businesses of all sizes to dialogue with customers, engaging them and generating two way information that promotes brand identity, customer loyalty and valuable feedback. When handled correctly it can result in better products, business practices and market growth.” (See Diagram To Left)

Or, as John Jantsch states “Social Media is the use of technology to co-create, know, like and trust” (Let’s Talk, Social Media For Small Business V.2)

The question one has to ask when deciding whether to court Social Media as a tool is not “Should I use Twitter and Facebook?” but rather “In what way can Twitter or Facebook help me accomplish my marketing goals”. At the end of the day deciding whether to use any marketing tool or not depends on you, your goals and your customers.

Having said that, Social Media offers massive value and impact to branding, market research, customer communication and online presence, but only when it is done thoughtfully and properly. Just look at these statistics:

  1. More than 250 million people use Facebook Connect every month. (Facebook).
  2. During the average 20-minute period in 2010, there were: 1,5870,000 wall posts, 2,716,000 photos uploaded and 10,208,000 comments posted. (AllFacebook.com).
  3. Since April, Twitter has gained 40 million users and a 62 percent increase in mobile use of the platform (Source: ClickZ).
  4. The average American Internet user watches 30 minutes of video online per day [40 percent increase over 2009] (comScore) Compared to 5 hours of television per day.
  5. The online photo sharing site Flickr now hosts more than 4 billion user images (2010) Since then it has grown by around 25 percent. By December 2010, the site was hosting more than 5 billion images. This equates to it’s members uploading more than 3,000 images per minute. (Browsermedia.co.ok).
  6. 75 percent: The percentage of U.S. iPad users that are interested in seeing videos within magazine ads on their iPad. (eMarketer via David Erickson).
  7. LinkedIn has grown by an impressive 100 percent from last year, it now has over 100 million users across the globe. Interestingly, 56% of these users are from outside of the US. (Browsermedia.co.ok).
  8. Users accessing Facebook via their mobile device has grown by over 200 percent. In early 2010 the figure was around 65 million, it now stands upwards of 200 million. This figure evidently reflects the rise in mobile and tablet usage around the globe. Interestingly, those who access Facebook via their mobile device are proven to be twice as active as those who don’t. (Browsermedia.co.ok).
  9. Each Facebook user spends on average 15 hours and 33 minutes a month on the site. (Jeff Bullas).
  10. Social book marking site Delicious claims more than 5.3 million users and 180 million unique bookmarked urls.
  11. More than 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook. (Jeff Bullas).

There are hundreds of sites and tools, with new ones cropping up every day and each site, be it Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Pinterest or “other” requires a different tact. Each goal you set for your campaign needs a different strategy. There are numerous avenues from which to approach, you simply need to know what is available and what you want to accomplish – then tailor your strategy accordingly. For small business especially there is no blanket strategy. It needs to be as unique as you are.

Not long ago (just over a decade now) most businesses relied on offline devices and tools to acquire customers. Advertisements, billboards, the Yellow Pages, these were all intrinsic to people finding your business. Fast forward to 2012, now we have customers doing their research online. The term “google” has become a verb “google that…STUFF” and Smart phones offer brands and sales at the touch of a button.

Today catching online traffic has become the primary way in which businesses gain market share and brand recognition. No matter what your business is, if you are a plumber or an IT company – That traffic is YOUR customer base and you want that traffic on your website.

Getting that traffic is key and that is one area where Social Media has become so important. Here is how John Jantsch put it:

Utilizing Social Media required planning and see through.

Search engine optimization has changed dramatically in recent years. The shift is from one of Web page optimization and link-hounding to content and engagement optimization. In short, search engine optimization and social media are now undeniably intertwined. It has become extremely difficult to achieve any measure of success for important keyword phrases without the use of social media. (Of course, the flip side to that is organizations that take advantage of social media can dominate, particularly within industries slow to adapt).”

Online/Social Media marketing programs are all about creative content, consistency and engagement. No matter what site you are using, these three concepts are core to success.That doesn’t mean that Webpage optimization and inbound links are a thing of the past, they just play a smaller role and share the stage with the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Social Media has stepped into the spotlight as the big player in web traffic – if you know how to use it.

Let’s briefly examine those for a second:

1. Creative Content: Zuckerbergs Law states that the number of individual postings online will continue to grow exponentially. The clutter of this increasing amount of content will create a more competitive environment in which to be seen.

To simplify, this means that the Social Media world is going to quickly become like the corkboard at Askews, our local grocer – plastered with posters and signs and business cards for everything – so completely covered in fact that most of it is lost or unintelligible. The metaphor here, is that with each passing day, it will become more important to create content that will grab your customers attention.

2. Consistency: This is core to any and all marketing and communication – consistency in content and consistency in scheduling.

  • Consistent Content: Social Media can create a natural association between your products and a specific image. You need to cultivate that image very specifically, through consistent placement of your logo, of your slogan and of your presence.
  • Consistent Scheduling: Your posts need to be scheduled and on time. Set a day and hour when your posts will go out. Research and test the waters to discern what time makes the most sense to reach your customer base, then carve it in stone. It is ok to post the odd extra content if you are reacting to opportunity, but do not be intermittent.

3. Engagement: Take in feedback, read what your customers have to say and then speak. Engagement means taking part in a conversation, listen then speak. Don’t just defend, but learn from what they are saying.

There are a number of ways to do this, depending on which sites and platforms you are using. Facebook allows posts that can be viewed hours or even days after they have been posted. Twitter is far more high-paced, unless someone directs their tweet at you, you may miss their comment – resources like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and Storify can be useful for keeping appraised.

Social media is considered the new big player in reeling in online traffic.

With so many different sites and resources – both free and paid, it is worthwhile to investigate and ask around. A lot of information on what is available can be found online via blogs or other articles. It can be a little overwhelming and this is an area where a consultant can often be very helpful. It is their job to be up on what’s available.

Social Media is a complex subject to examine, and we have not done it full justice here, however the bottom line is that it possesses Marketing value that transcends industries, business types and sizes, and consumer profiles. Social Media is more than just the “new thing” or the “buzz word” – it is a tool to be used, and clever companies will begin and continue to do just that.

(In our next posting we will examine what makes a good Social Media Specialist. A lot of people proclaim proficiency in this area, so how do you know you what you are getting? – Stay Tuned).

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services – Contact us for a free consultation.

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