Considering that Facebook has now existed for more than 10 years, it’s not surprising to learn that the vast majority of U.S. small businesses – some 81 percent – currently tap Facebook and other social-media platforms to market their goods and services.
Thus, the question at this juncture in the evolution of social media isn’t “Have small businesses embraced social media?” rather, the more pertinent questions are:
What social-media channels are small businesses using and for what purposes?
What should small businesses be doing to maximize their social-media ROI?
The Social Media Examiner recently released results from its seventh annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report, in which nearly 4,000 small-business owners were surveyed. Among the survey’s insights:
Important tool – Fully 92 percent of those questioned agreed with the phrase, “Social media marketing is important for my business.”
Facebook top pick for B2C – For those in the business-to-consumer category, Facebook is the go-to platform, followed by Twitter. However, some experts are projecting that Twitter could soon make significant gains on Facebook, as the former is launching an array of new advertising avenues.
LinkedIn top pick for B2B – Those in the business-to-business space reported that LinkedIn was their top choice for social-media marketing.
Time spent – On a weekly basis, most small businesses devote six or more hours to their social-media efforts.
Content – A considerable chunk of the time spent on social-media initiatives appears to be directed toward website blogging, as the business owners surveyed pointed to this type of content as the most important.
Benefits – Small businesses ranked “increased exposure” as the top benefit of social-media marketing, followed by greater website traffic, which likely is the driver of increased exposure.
Effectiveness – Although those surveyed reported social-media benefits, the majority, somewhat paradoxically, also reported that they weren’t sure how effective their social-media marketing actually is.
Up Social’s Effectiveness
To help small businesses shore up their social-media effectiveness, experts offer the following tips:
Strive for engagement – There’s a tendency to equate page views, an instance of an Internet user visiting a particular page on a website, with social-media success. Those in the know, however, contend that engagement, not page views, is the metric that matters.
In general terms, engagement is defined as the number of real (versus spam) comments, shares, and Retweets that are received from your online community. Those who fall into the truly engaged category are the consumers who are most likely to purchase whatever your small business offers.
Curb the sales enthusiasm – While it may sound counterintuitive, social-media experts argue that a high volume of marketing ploys, from announcements of limited-time sales to coupons for discounts, actually work to shrink rather than grow your bottom line. In other words, when consumers are bombarded with buy-me messaging, they consider the tactic a turnoff.
To keep your promotional content in check, follow the 5-3-2 rule developed by Internet entrepreneur T.A. McCann. The rule recommends a social-media-posting ratio of:
Five posts based on information that’s provided by external sources, information that your target audience will value.
Three non-sales-related posts that are relevant to your audience.
Two posts that are personal rather than business focused; this type of content lends a human dimension to your business or brand.
Ask for feedback – One of the most effective means of strengthening relationships with customers and prospects is to proactively ask for their feedback regarding your products, services, brand, and how well you’re coming across in the world of social media.
Of course, for this tip to truly be effective, one must actually review the feedback, thank those who took the time to express their opinions, and then implement changes when a valid point has been made. By doing so, not only will the product or service become better, but the customer-business relationship also will become better.