ImageSocial media is now an essential part of the marketing mix

As the recent report from Econsultancy and Adobe has demonstrated, most companies now look at social media as a key part of their marketing and overall business strategies. 66% of digital marketers surveyed (working for companies with an annual turnover of more than £100m) agreed that ‘social media is integral to business strategy’, while 67% said that social media activity was ‘integral to their marketing mix’.

It seems to be even more important for smaller business organisations,  those with a turnover lower than £100m (SME or SMB).  A Manta survey of 600 small business owners across the United States indicates that 90% are actively engaged in social networking sites and 74% perceive social networking as valuable — if not more valuable — than networking in-person.  According to another recent analysis of more than 300 Chicago-based news sites, Facebook and Twitter drive more than half of all referred visits for small business sites, three times the percentage of larger sites.

As Lisa Barone states in her analysis of the Chicago study, it’s also a testament to the power of getting involved in your local community, online and off: if you’re taking the time to engage people on Facebook and to create content that is valuable and relevant to their needs, you have a great opportunity to significantly increase the traffic to your Web site.

 

Small businesses are struggling with social media

However, the news isn't all good.  The Manta survey revealed that 58% of surveyed owners said they struggle with promoting their Facebook pages — if they have a page at all. Recently, the UK's Guardian newspaper ran an article about how small businesses are struggling to cope with the challenges of social media. According to Business Network International (BNI)'s latest survey, 75% of business owners have been "put off" a particular company due to their poor use of social media.

It's at those smaller companies that this blog series about starting social media for small business is aimed.  I don't intend to focus on which content SMEs should be posting or how to boost SEO, but rather  how to get organised: who should be doing what, some useful tools, and some important safeguards.  If you are looking for good examples of style per channel and use of content though, here are some examples of some small businesses which are getting it right and winning customers through their social outreach.

 

Successful small business social media cases

Fallowfields Hotel runs the @Fallowfields UK Twitter account and regularly tweets out menu items, hotel news, and the head chef's guest tweets to its 25,000-plus followers, many of whom follow links through to the hotel website.

Southport Road Dental practice uses YouTube testimonial videos to reassure prospective patients: dentist David Hickey promotes the films via YouTube and Twitter and drives traffic through to the website.

Included in business coach Cath Daley's social media arsenal are her online blogs, linked to LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, which target different user groups. "Blogs are a way of establishing your professional credibility and expertise to a wide audience while giving added value to my subscribers. Original online content raises brand awareness, improves SEO, and engages with existing and potential clients and referral partners. LinkedIn is the channel of choice for professionals and because of the nature of the business services I provide – communication and presentation skills training – more enquiries and referrals come from LinkedIn than any other platform, which I monitor via email."

Bookbinder Susan Green has an online shop at etsy.com, which she promotes primarily through Twitter - but also now, due to the visual appeal of her products, she is using Pinterest boards to help showcase her work.

 

Next posts in the series

The next posts look at Social Media Policy and Social Media Channel Ownership ... meantime, here's a great infographic from that Manta study mentioned earlier, demonstrating clearly the value of social media for  600 small business owners across the USA.