A recent report by Reuters cites a study conducted for Citibank Small Business that found out majority of small businesses do not use social media for business purposes. According to the survey, 75% of the respondents don’t find social networks and mediums like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as useful in expanding their business networks or generating leads. 86% has responded that they don’t even use information from social mediums as a source for business advice.
I say small businesses stand to gain much from using social media in their day to day operations.
Granted, most small businesses out there are probably brick-and-mortar operations, which have a small sales, manufacturing, service or other activities as its main source of income. Some of these may be home-based or freelance/professional basis. Indeed, many small businesses go on by without the need to engage social mediums on a day to day basis.
But social media can definitely help small businesses expand their network, and do marketing at lightning speeds at dirt cheap costs. Offhand, here are a few benefits of social media that I think small businesses should consider.
For any business, there’s nothing like a viral marketing campaign done right. Word of mouth, after all, is a very effective tool in the dissemination of information, especially if it’s done among people who are considered to be connectors. The real measure of how effective a small business can do viral marketing is not by the number of people whom you can share information with. Rather, success can be determined by the importance and influence of the people you share this information with. Social media users who are influential and trusted are better at word of mouth marketing, especially if they are within fields of interest relevant to your product or service.
Not all businesses can afford to hire marketing consultancy firms to determine market trends and do research. The Internet is rich with this information, to some extent. For instance, you can use Google Trends to spot trends in user interest for certain keywords and phrases. You can look for product reviews to find what customers are looking for. You can even search for mentions on Twitter and on blog review sites to find what people are saying about your industry or product.
In the eyes of a consumer, the best companies are those that are transparent with their dealings with the public. It’s best for any business to build up trust with the consumer base. One of the ways you can do this is by being accessible from all possible channels. Most businesses already have a website. But having a contact form that lets you receive emails might not be enough. If you bring your conversations online–like through a blog, forum or Twitter, then you have a better chance at resolving possible problems even before they happen. If you’re lucky, passionate users might even build interest groups themselves, and it will be the community that does the support for your clients.
Any small business stands to gain a lot with social media. Even if the benefits may not be direct, it’s a matter of extending goodwill and enhancing your presence in an ever growing community of connected individuals. Being active on Facebook, Twitter, in blogging and forums may not necessarily be able to directly result in added sales, revenues and expanded business. But by being connected, you can start building up a network and you can gain the trust of your audience.