Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Only 1% of SMEs Use Social Media

According to a recent survey completed by TalkTalk Business, only 1% of SMEs in the UK utilise social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as new business tools.
Can this be true? Apparently so! I recently read an article in The Drum which highlighted this and, I have to say, I was more than a little surprised. Social Media platforms are most suited to SMEs in that they are free to use, and help to engage directly with their existing, as well as potential, customers. In 2011, Facebook surpassed even Google in terms of internet usage... yet most companies will invest in a website but not give social media a second thought, meaning they are only covering themselves in half of the online market space.
From reading many articles about the emergence of social media specifically as a business tool, I have gleaned that this is mainly down to a classic case of 'fear of the unknown'. "What does it do?", "how do we use it?" and "Where do we start?" are all questions we encounter on an almost daily basis. The answer to this is to have a clear cut strategy in place for your social media usage. As with most forms of marketing, you need to have a defined plan. This can be difficult when you don't fully understand what you're working with yet, so don't be afraid to ask for a little advice or input - sometimes the best ideas for content etc come from customers themselves.
It is really important that you don't overtly try to 'sell' your products and services to your online audience. We see far too many cases of repeated posts of "buy our new this" and "we sell that cheaper than such a body"... this is not the way to go. Obviously the ultimate aim is to generate more or repeated business from your social media usage, but this should be done in a more engaging way. Try instead to be informative about the products/services and become a bit of a guru of information within your specified area. Chat with people, ask questions and answer their questions. The idea is to engage with your audience in a way which will leave an impression, making you the first company they think of when they think of a certain product/service.
Another thing to consider is that social media is a long term investment. It won't generate massive results over night, and it is not a 'quick fix', but don't give up on it! Over time, it is an excellent way of attracting/ gaining presence and retaining business and it WILL work if you do it properly and persevere with it.
Perhaps the most important aspect of your strategy, along with what to post, is where to post to. There are so many social media platforms in use, so it is important to gauge which ones will be best suited to the audience you are trying to target. For example, trying to endorse a video game is likely to have a lot of success on Facebook, but yield very little on LinkedIn. Gauging which outlets will have the greatest impact is all about analising where your customers are more likely to frequent.
I will end with a comment from Paul Lawton, MD of TalkTalk Business -
"Social media can prove invaluable as a new business tool and so it's worrying to see that so few SMEs are embracing it. Its business benefits range from being able to engage and understand the needs of customers and prospects through to gaining insights into target markets and perceptions of your organisation or brand".

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