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7 things SMEs/small businesses need to know about social media

For small and medium-sized businesses, social media has the potential to bring so many benefits. Done well, it can build deeper relationships, keeps you front of mind with potential buyers and shows off your products and services in a way that no other medium can match.

Done very well, it can even build a community of enthusiastic brand advocates who will willingly spread the word about what you’ re doing – an army of salespeople willing to spruik on your behalf. But if you’re hoping social media will take your business to these dizzy marketing heights, there’ s a few things you should know first.

SMEs must use social media as part of something bigger

Small business owners are usually doers. So, true to form, when it dawns on them that they should ‘ be doing social media’ , they take the expression at face value and just do it. They open a twitter account, start a Facebook page and then begin posting about whatever comes into their heads. It’s the wrong approach entirely.

To work effectively, your business’s social media needs a strategy behind it. And that social media strategy must be tied to your business strategy. If it’s not, your social media efforts will be scattered and inconsistent. You’ ll be sending out the wrong signals or sending people down the wrong path and, ultimately, your social media will do your business more harm than good.

We can show you some pretty good examples of where this happens. Then again, we probably don’t need to. You’ve no doubt quite a few yourselves. And yet, many business owners still think that just by turning up they’re “doing social media”.

SMEs need to know that social media is a regular thing

Some small business owners will do one mailout or post one article to social media, then sit back and expect the world to change. It won’ t.

Very rarely something you do on social media might ‘ go viral’ , moving well beyond your immediate circle of followers and customers to get shared and talked about by people you never dreamed of reaching. But more often than not, building this kind of audience takes time, application and trial and error. Social media is marathon – or at least a middle distance race – not a sprint.

SMEs need to be comfortable with ambiguity

The way television, radio or print advertising works is reasonably immediate. A business pays for the ad, the ad goes out, and then hopes this is followed by an immediate spike in enquiries or sales. Social media is a little more ambiguous. It can take time to see a return on investment, at least several months. And, when a sale comes in, it can also be hard to know exactly what role social media played in it all. That’ s why….

SMEs need to keep doing other things

Social media is not enough on its own. Although some rare businesses may have achieved all their business goals with nothing more than a facebook account, that’ s very much the exception, not the rule.

Most businesses still need to invest in other marketing tactics, such as a web presence, seminars, advertising, good old fashioned networking and PR. In fact, the final one of these methods and the traditional media coverage it can being can be the best of all complements to effective social media.

Regardless, what social media can do is to amplify each of these old school marketing tactics, giving you the chance to give people the full story in a slow and more interactive way. That means, when they do come to you through another touch point they are likely to know a lot about what you do and how you do it. And that knowledge builds a level of familiarity and trust, that makes them much more likely to buy.

SMEs need to put themselves out there on social media

Social media, by its very nature, is uncontrollable and somewhat anarchic. That alone is enough to put many SME owners off investing too much into it. What happens if you get a bad comment? Or if you put forward a point of view that doesn’t’ t go down well? What happens if people start complaining on your social media pages?

It’s true that social media gives someone who has an issue with your business a ready forum in which to air their grievances. But, while negative social media can and does happen, it’s probably not as common as you might think.

And, even if someone does complain there can often be a positive side to using social media. For starters, you get to better understand the grievances of your customer and make sure it doesn’t happen again. In that sense, it can offer a unique forum for listening. Better still, social media gives you the opportunity to respond.

In other words, people get to see two sides of an argument – they don’ t just have to take the dissatisfied customer’ s word for it.

SMEs need to demonstrate personality through social media

While we’ re on the subject of risk management, it can be tempting to play social media safe so that you avoid stirring the pot too much. But, if you do, you’ ll run a much greater risk: the risk of failing to cut through and therefore talking to no one but yourself. Doing social media in a way that attracts followers and builds an audience, means doing it with personality. It means being strong and confident and unafraid to speak your mind. Only then can you hope to give people a glimpse into who you are, what you do, and how you do it differently to anyone else.

This is your chance for your BRAND to express itself and define its unique position in a loud and busy marketplace

SMEs need to be prepared to invest in social media

Finally, social media can be a very cost-effective form of marketing, but there’ s a difference between being cost-effective and being free. And, like any form of marketing or advertising, those willing to invest in quality will almost always see better returns. So be prepared to invest in quality. Don’t try to cut corners. And don’ get one of the manager’s 17 year old to do it on the cheap – especially if you’ re not targeting 17 year olds.

And finally…

We’ve been around this space for some time. And can confirm that social media doesn’t just give small businesses anxiety. Even the biggest companies debate endlessly about the risks and return of an environment that opens them up to criticism and isn’t necessarily a forum for direct sales.

But what we can say for sure is that social media genuinely has the power to transform both your marketing efforts and your business and bring an almost unique opportunity to broaden the reach of your brand.

That’s why we love to talk to business owners exploring this space and doing it properly. After all, to do social is easy – to do it well and get the most out of it you really do need to be strategic, considered and bold.

Remember Creative can help you be all three.

Get in touch to find out more.

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Written By: Michael Menzies