Monday, December 3, 2012

Small Businesses are Finding Social Media to be an Integral Tool for a Successful Marketing Strategy

With over 100,000 tweets being sent each minute to Twitter, and over 3.2 billion likes and comments being posted daily to Facebook, it isn't hard to grasp just how large a part of today's society social media is.  Many small businesses are jumping on the social media bandwagon and are finding their efforts very rewarding.  A Social Media Marketing Industry Report by Michael Stelzner surveyed 3342 marketers, and showed that 90% of those surveyed agree that social media is important to their business.  In addition, 88% found that social media helps them gain increased exposure.  By investing time, energy, and very little (if any) money, small businesses have the oppurtunity to gain exposure and growth through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

Small businesses are building strong relationships with customers while gaining exposure to new potential customers through word-of-mouth promotion

Social networking covers a broad range of websites, the most popular of them being Facebook.  Facebook has roughly 845 million monthly active users in 2012, yielding a network of 100 billion connections.  By building a presence on Facebook, small businesses have access to a huge market of potential consumers, so it is imperative that these businesses maintain their connections and build relationships to ensure growth.  Ning has found it only takes 20 people to create meaningful many-to-many interactions and bring an online community to a significant level of activity. That’s something almost any business can achieve  One Facebook friend may "share" or "like" a small business' Facebook page, and through this friend, another Facebook user can then see the business' page.  In this way, a business' page with 20 "likes" can explode into a community of thousands of "likes", allowing for a large potential of exposure.  

Just creating an account on a social media website, however, won't warrant exposure for small businesses.  They must be connected and engaged with their "followers" or "friends".  Building relationships is crucial to the success and growth of a small firm on social networking sites.  This means companies should spend time fostering close relationships with existing customers, while identifying potential customers.  When a company maintains close relationships with their existing customers, these customers may then talk positively about their experience on their own social networking page, thus gaining new customers for that business.  

AJ Bombers burger joint in Milwaukee gains exposure and revenue from Twitter

 Joe Sorge, the owner of AJ Bombers, started on Twitter by searching to see what people were saying about his restaurant.  After reading the comments, he decided to create his own Twitter account for AJ Bombers, so he could respond and connect with his customers.  Sorge used this as a platform to build positive relationships with customers, and as a result, saw the number of his followers rise.  Sorge believes that Twitter is a large part of the success of his restaurant that he even has customers write their twitter user name on the walls of his restaurant.  

Social media can work wonders for businesses on a budget

Zoomerang Study on Small Business Owners
Typically small businesses are faced with the challenge of allocating their limited funds to many different sections of their business operation.  The marketing aspect of a small business is not necessarily the primary focus in terms of capital investment, and may be cut or severely limited when the business operates on a small budget.  Social networking sites, such as Facebook and twitter, allow these companies the ability to maintain a marketing effort without investing a large sum of money.  A study by Zoomerang, which interviewed 1,180 small business decision-makers and 500 consumers, found that nearly 60% of all small business decision-makers spend less than $100 on social media, and that 74% of business don't employ anyone to manage their social media marketing.  By investing time into establishing a presence in the social networking world, small businesses generally see a payoff of their time, in terms of more exposure, increased traffic, and improved sales.  In the study conducted by Stelzner, 48% of self-employed and small business owners saw improved sales as a direct result of their social media efforts.

How has the advancing platform of social media had an impact on small businesses? 

Professor Godes, marketing expert from the University of Maryland, says that social media has had an impact on small businesses by allowing them to market their good/service in an efficient way.  As Godes states in the video below, it is hard for small businesses to use other cost ineffective outlets to advertise.  Small businesses on a small budget cannot afford to buy airtime or start a radio campaign, so those businesses that allocate time to maintain a social networking site can raise awareness and gain exposure.

Social media provides small businesses a more equal playing ground to advertise and compete against larger companies and corporations

Small businesses now, because of social media, have an easier way to advertise their product and gain name recognition.  Yes, small businesses have huge possibilities for growth, exposure, and revenue, and yes, smaller companies on a low budget are turning to social media, but these possibilites turn into reality only when the businesses take time to cultivate online relationships and maintain their sites!

Is the increasing prevalence of social media allowing small businesses to thrive, or is it hindering their success?

As Godes explains, it is the small businesses, those that take the initiative to develop and maintain their websites, that find social media to be a key contributor in the success of their marketing and networking efforts.  According to Godes, the "more sophisticated, more thoughtful, the most strategic thinking businesses thrive" while the less sophisticated businesses are finding it harder to compete and survive.

Key Takeaway
Small businesses now have the power of social media to reach millions of consumers across the world without having to spend a hefty portion of their funds, and to compete with larger corporations.  Social media allows small businesses these opportunities for exposure and success, but it is ultimately up to the small businesses themselves to make the effort in sustaining their websites and creating an online community of fans and followers.


An on-the-street opinion 

1 comment:

  1. Very informative post, incorporating lots of credible statistics to back up your information. The headings were informative and to the point, and I felt that I was able to get a fairly good sense of the overall information just by reading each of the subheadings. I do think that the article would have benefited from more in-text links and citations, rather than simply citing most of your sources at the end. The links that you did include in the text were well placed, however. The first video was very relevant and used well in context of the article, although you could have set it up better. You did not introduce your expert until after the first video, which made it seem out of place at first. The videos were very well shot, however, with clear audio, minimal background noise, good lighting, and excellent steadiness.
    While I like the idea of summarizing the gist of your discussion at the end of the article, I thought that the "key takeaway" subheading was a bit unnecessary, and sounded less professional than the rest of the article.
    The audioboo was useful and very well used, with good, clear audio. I did think that it would have been better if you hadn't included the question, as the person in the audioboo did a good job of clearly articulating what he was trying to say, and it was pretty clear what he was giving his opinion about. Overall, a very well put together post, with effective graphics and general layout, and informative writing.