While reading through the latest Small Business Success Index report, I have to say I was surprised at the heavy emphasis on, and analysis of, small businesses and their love of social media. Though we all know what I think of social media, I am happy to see small businesses embracing it because it is one more way for us to level the playing field with bigger companies. If we keep our websites up-to-date and put thought and effort into our marketing, customers have no idea if we’re a one-man show or a small firm, whether we work out of our home office barefoot or have a gorgeous office suite in a green building.
Despite the emphasis on social media, I honestly thought more small business owners would be using social media. 20% (out of 500 small business owners) isn’t a lot, though 14% of those surveyed said they plan on joining the social media bandwagon over the next 2 years (also not a lot). (Of those who use social media, most use FaceBook (82%), followed by LinkedIn (38%) and Twitter (30%).)
In just 6 months since the last SBSI report, small business owners shifted the role that social media plays in their marketing efforts:
…Expectations of what social media can do for their business has changed in the past six months, as now more small businesses expect social media to build awareness of their organization (77%) rather than attract leads (71%), a reverse of six months ago.
Small business owners are also using social media to stay in touch with current customers. Both are smart moves. To consistently identify and nurture leads requires so much time and energy that you need to have an employee dedicated to social media at least part-time. Don’t forget that you already spent time and energy to attract your current customers. Focus more of your time and energy on them, especially the ones that spend the most money and that you genuinely like.
Using social media to build awareness is smart for another reason. Building awareness is a critical component of marketing—you have to market your business to find new customers. I think if small businesses continue to focus on awareness, they will organically attract leads and customers will start coming to them rather than the other way around.
There is one caveat to using social media, though: it requires and rewards creativity. If you’re having trouble thinking of creative ways to market your business, you are probably not one of the 20% using social media right now. Here’s what you need to do: start finding companies to follow (on Facebook) that aren’t necessarily in your industry. Veuve Clicquot, Mashable, JCrew, and Vogue all do a great job, in my opinion, of posting a variety of content: photos, videos, questions, contests, news, etc. Learn from others. Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!