Social media can be a great catalyst for SMEs, but it doesn’t always live up to expectation.
If you’re a small business owner, chances are you’ve read an article that’s told you, in no uncertain terms, that social media is the Holy Grail. While this may be true, it’s actually very misleading. Research suggests 60% of small business owners get no return on investment in social media, and the truth is, for some businesses, social media just isn’t working.
So, if you’re unsure about how much of your time and money should be spent tweeting, liking and sharing, this guide will set you straight.
Know your market before focusing on social media
Some businesses exist solely on social media. Many urban pop-up shops and street food stands, whose premises can move from one day to the next, do most of their communicating through social media – because often, that’s where their customers are.
But examples like this can skew the picture. For the average business, while social media may well be an important marketing tool, it won’t necessarily open the floodgates to a wave of customers.
The key is to know your market inside-out. And that means knowing where your customers are. Yes, they may well be on social media, but is that where they spend most of their time? Topshop flood social media with promotions because they know their customers spend a huge amount of time there. But if your average customer makes their buying decisions by reading trade magazines, that’s where you should focus.
There’s a difference between ‘likes’ and sales
Social media can generate sales. But most experts agree that it’s primarily a place to build customer loyalty, and therefore long-term relationships.
So the problem is that some small businesses, after spending time and money on social media, expect some of those likes and shares to convert to sales, and quickly. After all, start-ups often live pay cheque to pay cheque.
From the beginning, be clear about what you expect from social media.
Social media success takes a lot of work
There’s definitely a prevailing attitude among many businesses that social media is easy; that it’s a bandwagon that can be easily jumped on. But this is a completely false impression.
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are extremely competitive marketplaces. Success takes a lot of hard work, and normally, a lot of time. You can’t just write content; you need to share it. You also need to connect with relevant people and businesses, and interact with them. You need to help them, solve problems and provide insights. You might even need to entertain people to make them remember you.
All of this takes great effort. And if your social media presence starts to grow, in order to maintain it, you’ll need even more time to interact with the community you’ve built.
Don’t ignore other channels because of social media
For some small businesses, email will be more useful than social media, at least initially.
Why? Because a good email campaign that drives sales requires far less time and groundwork than social media. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to do, nor does it mean it will always work. But fundamentally, there are fewer steps to tackle when acquiring a customer through email – it’s a form of direct marketing, whereas social media tends to be more indirect.
And the same rules apply to any other sales or marketing method. Try everything, but always allow a little more time for proven, reliable sales tactics.
The bottom line is this: when you’re a small business, you need to separate the must-haves from the nice-to-haves.