Most everyone is aware of the size of Facebook and other social media staples such as Twitter, Yelp, FourSquare and YouTube. However, even with near-luddites to the elderly and everyone in between broadcasting themselves through at least one social media platform, there is still a sizeable portion of small business owners (especially those with a physical storefront) that have yet to walk down the social media path.
Perhaps they’re too busy with the day-to-day logistics of owning and operating their business. Maybe they’ve been frightened by hearing horror stories of how a terribly mismanaged Facebook page can lead to significant backlash and loss of customer base, or maybe they simply feel that utilizing social media is not the best use of their time and/or money. If you’re in this crowd, here are a few compelling reasons why you need to join the millions of other businesses who ARE utilizing social media, and why it could mean the difference between success and failure.
How Small Businesses Can Utilize Social Media to Connect to their Customers …and Why It’s Imperative
The most glaring and most compelling reason a brick-and-mortar business would want to engage in Facebook and other forms of social media (most notably Twitter, FourSquare, Yelp, and LinkedIn) is because the overwhelmingly vast amount of their customers are there. It’s the most surefire audience for a business owner’s message due to the sheer amount of people that are active on the aforementioned channels. There are over 1.1 BILLION people with active Facebook accounts – many of the people and potential customers that would walk by your door or purchase your goods and services are checking their friends’ statuses from their phones, uploading pictures from their recent trip, or connecting with friends and family while they are out running errands and shopping. What better way to persuade them to come into through your doors (as opposed to your competition’s) than to have a user-friendly and easy-to-interact with presence on a platform where the vast majority of them are already on?
Secondly, growing your social media presence can be 100% free. According to a recent study by Chadwick Martin Baily, 42% of small business owners spend $0 on their social media marketing efforts, and a majority (59%) spend less than 100$ per year. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other platforms give you complete functionality of a business account without having to pay anything – there are no features withheld or functionalities removed for free accounts. You can grow your followers purely organically, without ever having to fork over a dime. Conversely, if you do choose the advertising route to gain followers and grow your audience, there is a near-infinite amount of ways to execute it. You can devote a sizeable chunk of change or as little as $10 – many business owners like to run trial spends and see how their ROI does before moving some of the money from traditional advertising over to Facebook and other social media platforms. For the amount of money spent and the amount of potential eyeballs it is seen by, it’s a huge bargain.
Finally, creating a presence on social media is incredibly easy and takes only a modest investment of initial time and a scant amount of time to maintain it thereafter. If you’re reading this article, odds are you’re computer literate enough to turn your machine on, fire up the ol’ Information Superhighway and come across it. Those skills will serve you well in creating a Facebook page or Twitter account for your business. While there is admittedly a science and an art to perfecting how a business interacts with and grows their clientele online, it could hardly be simpler to at least get the ball rolling. Setting up a proper Facebook account for your business will take you less than an hour, and with Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s even less. If you think you’re too busy to get on social media, think about it the next time you’re sitting down to watch a movie or power through an entire season of Game of Thrones – it takes less than you think and can be invaluable to the growth of your business beyond the physical limitations of the building. And once you have the account set up, the amount of time you need to invest to maintain it is even less. A simple, three to four minute log in twice a day will allow you to post updates, inform your customers about special sales or promotions, respond to any questions or comments you’ve received online, and spend a little time doing some light outreach to grow your user base.
So if it’s easy, cheap (possibly free) and relevant to your potential customers, can you think of a reason you wouldn’t start utilizing social media right away?
While considering that, consider these:
- According to USA Today, amassing fans of Facebook is one of the best ways you can assure future customers. In a recent study, they found that people were 51% more likely to buy a product, good, or service from a business if they “liked” the business’ Facebook page.
- Out of those 1.1 billion active users on Facebook, 680 million of those access their account at least once per month via their mobile device. People carry their mobile devices wherever they go, meaning that your content and message on Facebook can potentially reach your customer base at any time, from any place.
- Although a good amount of business owners that put money into Facebook and other social media campaigns fail to see a decent ROI, those that do often see appreciable success. According to a Manta survey, 30% of business owners that saw an ROI from their Facebook ad spends reported that ROI as $2,000 or above.
- There are over 9 million businesses on Facebook and other social media platforms. Unless you are in an incredibly niche and specialized industry, odds are that your competition is utilizing social media and reaching thousands of your potential customers before you are. Ensuring you have at least some presence on social media ensures that you are keeping up with the latest trends and keeping tabs on your biggest competitors.
- In the same USA Today study mentioned above, 49% of business owners are spending more time on social media this year than the last year. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and the rest are not going away any time soon – the majority of savvy business owners take their social media presence very seriously, and you should too.
While it should be patently clear by now that there is value in and an essential need to establish a presence for your business on Facebook and other social media platforms, there are also some considerations and precautions to consider before jumping into social head-first.
Be sure that your needs and your goals for your business and its online presence line up with what your potential new customers are looking for. A survey conducted by Constant Contact revealed that most a majority of business owners (51%) viewed wall posts as the most effective way to reach new customers. However, potential customers listed special offers and discounts as the most effective tool to get them to “like” a page and ultimately purchase the product of the business (only 18% viewed wall posts as the best way to get their attention).
Also, be sure to put some thought into your social media presence, and ideally, create a plan or campaign that you or the person who handles your social media can follow through on. Always view your business’ social media presence as a crucial, integral part of your overall marketing strategy, but never the only part. “Just thinking that Facebook alone will send droves of customers to your doorstep is a mistake a lot of people make,” said Crackerjack Marketing CEO Stephanie Schwab. Don’t make the mistake of devoting too much of your time and resources into one aspect of your business’ outward profile, and don’t completely abandon tried-and-true techniques that have worked for you in the past in favor of Facebook.
Finally, try to look at social media as a terrific avenue to get your message and product out to more people, and not as something you necessarily need to create lots of additional content for. “In other words, make your content a platform from which to engage socially and on whatever device your customers choose to browse with,” said Davic Mercer from WSM4B. “It’s the content, the message, that will drive your social influence. By focusing on creating high quality content, not only will you build a sustained source of high quality organic traffic from the search engines, you will also be in a position to build authority and trust that leads to social influence. Once you have social influence, you are able to leverage it to drive business growth and sales.”
The numbers are undoubtedly in favor of small business owners taking to Facebook and other social media platforms. It is simply too large a venue and, increasingly, too populated with potential customers to overlook or postpone until later. More people each day are connecting to businesses and brands through social, and it’s one of the most effective means for brick-and-mortar businesses to retain mindshare with a customer once direct interaction is over. Establishing an even modestly-successful social web presence can mean all the difference in determining which business a potential customer will walk into.