Prior to social media, businesses used public relations, advertising, and direct mail to create visibility, generate brand loyalty, and build sales. However, many small businesses found these tools included a high price tag. The launch of social media effectively leveled the marketing playing field between small and large businesses because social media is free.
According to the State of Small Business Report, 56% of SMBs invest only 3% of their revenue in marketing. That percentage is evidence of the significant gap between what large and small businesses spend. A recent Gartner survey has the national average for marketing budgets at 10.2%, well above the 3% indicated by the small businesses surveyed in the State of Small Business Report. Small businesses need effective, far-reaching tools that allow them to compete with larger businesses – and social media is meeting that need.
3 ways social media takes small business marketing to the next level:
1. Exponential Reach
It’s the age of sharing – photos, favorite spots to eat, product reviews. What do the social media hotspots like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp, Google+, and Pinterest have to do with how businesses attract and keep customers? And small businesses that use these tools to build customer relationships separate themselves from every other competitor.
Tools to Leverage Platforms: Marketing content is no longer distributed in isolation. One piece has the potential for instantaneous sharing across multiple platforms. For example, an article posted to a company’s blog could be accompanied by a tweet, a Facebook post, or a share – all traffic directed back to the primary post and to the company’s website.
Unfortunately, according to Social Media Examiner, 85% of participants aren’t sure what social media tools are best to use. For those small businesses, there are social media companies that can help without requiring a lot of capital. Danielle Glick, president of DGdesign, an internet marketing company, stated, “Many small business owners feel overwhelmed by the options—Facebook, Twitter, Google AdWords, Yelp, the local newspaper’s website ads, and more. The trick is to not invest a little bit in every option, but to focus your marketing budget on the one or two options that work best for your business goals.“
One widely-used social media tool, HootSuite, offers business plans that start at $ 10/month. Creating new customer leads means placing marketing content in front of many potential consumers.
Platforms to Leverage Networking: Once content is shared across multiple platforms, the beauty of social media marketing begins through the leveraging of that customer’s social media networks. And the amount of sharing isn’t derived by simply adding the members within a customer’s network; for every individual who sees content and shares, likes, or retweets to their network, the reach of that content continues to multiply exponentially. For this reason, social media can be the business owner’s dream because content can be distributed without investing a lot of time and money.
2. Low Cost
Yes, social media is free; however, there is cost when businesses start paying for marketing staff to spend time updating social media channels. 61% of small businesses use social media; however, 40% say they don’t have dedicated marketing staff. According to Hubspot, 84% of marketers found that a mere six hours per week spent updating social media channels was enough to generate increased customer traffic.
It’s very rare for small business leaders to have tools that require little up-front cash. But that’s exactly what social media offers. SMBs get advertising, marketing, and branding tools at their fingertips without paying a dime. Social media networking allows small businesses the opportunity to publish content and begin building customer relationships with minimal investment.
3. New Customers
Heading into 2015, small businesses feel confident in the economy, and 57% anticipate revenue growth. How? By improving existing customer experiences and retaining and investing in new customer acquisition activities and methods. A large part of acquiring and keeping customers is the level of trust they feel about the company and its products and services. Social media offers SMBs the opportunity to connect directly with their customers.
According to a report published by Texas Tech University, companies who engage on social media channels enjoy higher brand loyalty from their customers. The report concludes, “Companies should take advantage of the tools social media gives them when it comes to connecting with their audience.”
Take Advantage of Social Media
In less than a decade social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have revolutionized business marketing, with major brands across almost every industry successfully using these channels to raise awareness of products and services, generate leads, and drive website traffic.
But what about small business? While they don’t have the resources to compete with the larger brands, by fully integrating social media into all aspects of their business strategy, small brands can also use these tools to dramatically boost their digital profile, customer base, and sales.