Small businesses across the country are set to increase the time and effort they spend on social media marketing, but research on its effectiveness has been mixed. A recent survey by one of the largest lending institutions in the US discovered the majority of small-business executives found social networks no good for expanding their business. However, according to the "Small Business Marketing Forecast 2010" sponsored Ad-ology, lead generation is the biggest benefit of social networking. Social networks were also considered to be a great way to keep in-tune with the industry, and to monitor communications about your brand. The chart below illustrates the benefits to small business.
Education and Resources are Lacking
Awareness of social media is certainly very high among small businesses - its become the "talk of the town." The problem is that businesses need to be educated about how to set up and work with this new online phenomenon. But, there are other mental "roadblocks" to getting the most from social media. Many businesses perceive their customers do not use social networks. In fact, this sentiment was made by 31% of respondents in a recent survey. Additionally, about 1/3 of respondents indicated they didn't have the internal resources to effectively execute a social media campaign.
What's A Small Business to Do?
Social media has matured to the point where marketers are no longer asking whether it should be part of their marketing mix but how and where they should participate. A clear strategy for the channel is now necessary. The low external costs of doing social media can lull business owners into creating their own solutions. However, taking into account the time spent debating, formulating, managing and executing social media campaigns - not to mention creating content - makes it clear that money is at stake and a well-thought-out plan is necessary.
Instead of researching the best ways to engage in the social networks and/or reaching out to an experienced person in the marketplace, many businesses just start creating accounts and putting out content without much of a plan or purpose. That's a recipe for spending a lot of time and not getting much for it.
An important part of an effective social media plan is deciding the following:
- What brand message do you want to be known for in the social media space?
- What are your competitive differences and unique qualities and capabilities that are worthy of communicating about via the social networks?
- What internal resources do you have that can create/publish worthy content?
- How do you intend to integrate social media into your other marketing efforts?
By answering these important elements and working with a knowledgeable person, you will avoid the pitfalls many small businesses have experienced thus far, save some time and/or money, and learn how to succeed doing social media marketing. Good luck.