How small businesses can use social media
62% of Australian Internet users have a presence on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, and nearly half of online Australians participate in social networking at least once a weeki. This represents a big opportunity for businesses to connect with existing and potential customers and to increase salesii.
In 2011/12 the proportion of small to medium sized Australian businesses with a social media presence increased from 14% to 27%iii. Australian businesses' growing interest in social media reflects the increasing awareness of the significant impact social media can have on their profits. According to the Yellow Social Media Report (2012), one in five social media users follows their favourite brands and makes use of special offers and purchases via social networking. 40% of those who researched a product via social media purchased the product afterwardsiv. Similarly, Nielsen found "liking brands" to be a key area of participation (57%) with social media in 2011i.
How to use social media
Social media is more than just another channel to spread your messages and offerings. Large social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter give insight into customer habits, preferences and dislikes, making such platforms ideal for consumer research. All you need to do is read and listen!
Professional social media monitoring tools have become widely available and allow companies to monitor multiple social media channels at once. While some of these tools come with a hefty price tag and are often targeted at larger companies, small businesses can benefit from a large range of free online tools such as Followerwonk or Twitonomy. These tools can be used to find and analyse trends, and optimise content.
Providing a good example of how to interact with a social media community in a professional, advantageous way, U.S. entrepreneur and video blogger Gary Vaynerchuk used search tools to find and answer general questions about wine on Twitter. He built trust and respect among his Twitter network and used social media channels to thank new customers for purchasesv. Now, he is about to cross the 1 million-follower mark.
Social media makes sharing and spreading positive and negative opinions and experiences easier than ever, encouraging word of mouth marketing. Does your research lead you to a dissatisfied customer? Get in touch via your social network, offering a solution or incentive; who knows, you may be able to turn an unhappy customer into an advocate of your company.
Formulate a social media strategy
Having a strategy is as important for social media as it is for traditional marketing channels. Social media can play a critical role in marketing and reputation management, impacting on brand awareness, customer acquisition, customer relationship management, and search engine optimisation. AIMIA & Sensis found that businesses are still focused on establishing, maintaining and updating their social media presence, but are failing to direct traffic to their official Web site (where the business can push their online offerings)iii.
When formulating your strategy, think about how you can use social media to deliver content that creates value for your customers. As research shows, social media users are particularly interested in discounts (64%), giveaways (54%), product information (48%), tips and advice (41%) and coupons (41%)iv. Also, it makes sense to establish procedures on how to extend marketing activities into social ones, and policies that allow for proper planning and resource allocation.
Measure your results
In 2010/11, small and medium businesses almost doubled their marketing spending on social media. However, research shows that many of those businesses that invest in social media don't measure the return on their investmentiii. Remember that measuring and evaluating achievements against your business goals helps you determine if your strategy is successful or not. For example, accurately measured results can flag problems associated with growth and customer satisfaction, indicating that your company's social media strategy may need to be revised.
Are you a small business that uses social media? Share your thoughts, insights and tips with our Allianz Australia Facebook community.