This post is incredibly outside of my usual topic of travel, I know. However, if you’ve read through my little site, here, you know I am at the end of my BS in Information Technology. We’ve recently been given the assignment to create a blog post on one of our research papers. If you haven’t guessed, the subject of my paper is social media for small business with my focus being small businesses using social media to market themselves. Let’s dive in!
I’ll cut to the chase – small businesses usually come with small budgets and small resource pools. My favorite small businesses are the family-run types: everyone pitches in, the kids learn the action to one day take over for mom & dad (or mom & mom, or dad & dad) — the whole family is involved! A common issue among these businesses is their budgets – usually small. Marketing takes time and money. Herein lies the problem.
Did you know 99% of businesses in the good ole USA are small businesses? Now, depending on the industry, a business can fall into the small category with as much as $35 million in sales and as many as 1,500 employees! However, I am speaking to the truly small businesses – a handful of employees making it by on loyal customers and love. Is that you?
Whats unfortunate is most small businesses won’t make it past the 15-year mark. It is hard to compete with giants like Wal-Mart and Food Lion to sell your goods and services, isn’t it? It seems they have the world at their disposal – and they do! – and your business is just trying to get eyes on itself! Fear not – social media can help!
In 2011, a worldwide survey showed that 75% of respondents relied on social media posts and reviews by fellow consumers to decide where to shop. This is huge – all it takes is a ‘like’, a share, or a good review to pop up on new radars. But how do you get there without a budget to allow for fancy banners, commercials, and campaigns? Social media is free!
Websites can cost anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. The main SM platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn – all free to use. Sure, you can purchase boosts for your posts, throw out an advertisement campaign or a sponsored ad on any of these platforms to really get your name out there, but all it really comes down to is a nice photo and a few words to get folks going. And don’t forget about hashtags!
A quick rundown of the top platforms:
- 32% of influencers (folks who are either hired or volunteer to promote products/services from a particular brand) say Facebook is their go-to platform for marketing. It’s been reported that the best ads are those with four to 15 words and a nice photo. The image, itself, is said to dictate of 75% of the post’s performance.
- 9% of users say they use FB for holiday shopping ideas.
- Facebook has a nice SEO and FBX (Facebook Exchange) feature, now! Apparently, ad performance has increased by 16x the original!
- If you’re so inclined, Facebook now offers online sales! Folks can purchase right from a company’s page (did I mention Facebook is free?).
- You can choose small budgets, averaging $10, to boost certain posts to gain more attention.
- 24% of influencers use this as their main platform. Keep in mind, influencers usually get perks for their adverts such as free swag from the business, discounts, etc. So, they want to make sure their ads are seen!
- 68% of IG users say they are able to engage with their favorite places of business & brands via Instagram – this is the type of environment that can generate returning, loyal customers and create an awesome customer service experience, even if they don’t live near your small business’s area!
- Another reported 68% of users say they’ve learned about new products and services straight from this platform.
- Instagram boasts a 58% increase of customer engagement & following (when a customer clicks Follow to see all the business’s/brand’s posts in their timeline) compared to Facebook – imagine what you can do using BOTH platforms!
- 75% of users say they’ve taken action (clicked the follow button, purchased, ventured to the website) after seeing something they liked on Instagram.
- INSTAGRAM IS FREE! It offers both personal and business accounts. The business account offers trend insights, so you can see which posts are doing better than others and possibly adjust – which time worked best? Which hashtags? Which day of the week?
- You can purchase sponsored ad space for as little as $2 and up, depending on budget and goals.
- Being the third-most-used social media platform for influencers, Twitter gets 18% of their preferred usage recommendations.
- YAY MORE PERCENTAGES! 53% of Twitter users say they made a purchase after seeing a product on Twitter.
- 70% of users who follow small businesses reported retweeting their content – this means when the business posts, they usually share the post on their own feed.
- Boosted tweets (the small fee ad-boosts I keep talking about) usually see a 29% sales increase.
- 72% of users said if they like what the brand represents, and their Twitter content, it is likely they’ll eventually make a purchase.
- 81% of Twitter users say they’re influenced more by social media than TV when making a purchase — who has cable, anymore, anyway? Netflix & pizza, amirite?
- LinkedIn is unique in the fact that it is business-centered, professional, and its potential is on a completely different level. A business’ presence on LinkedIn is usually all about business and LinkedIn is also chalk-full of professional content.
- In 2015, small businesses reported this platform as their favorite when connecting with other businesses, professionals, insights, etc.
- Also allows boosted content!
- Though there aren’t many consumer statistics for LinkedIn, it is a GREAT platform for all kinds of insights, professional blog posts, and connecting with others in the small-business family. NETWORKING! WOO!
The thing about social media is it is automatically worldwide. One share by one person on the other side of town, the state, the country, or the globe, will immediately spread the word of your offerings to a whole slew of folks who wouldn’t have known you, otherwise. Here’s another thing to think about: what are the habits of the current generation? For example, if I drive past a place I am interested in, my first step is to see if there is a website. Websites, as I’ve said, can DRAIN a budget. My next step is to look for a Facebook page. Here, I can see your hours, I can judge your business’ culture based on post content – this is super important because I won’t go somewhere my little family won’t be comfortable, right? – I can see how you engage (or don’t) with customers on the reviews or guest posts pages, I can see photos inside your shop…. so much potential just based on a quick page peek!
What if you have a strictly-online business? Social media is SO GREAT to keep customers interested and engaged if there isn’t a place to go. Many users will visit an Instagram feed of an online brand looking for behind-the-scenes videos, a Livestream chat, or just to see how your brand makes them feel according to your posts. As a millennial, we love to see what brands are doing, how and why they’re doing it, and getting to know them on a more personal level rather than through ads in our faces. Social media allows a global reach without leaving your shop or home.
BUT WAIT… the cons…
Before you go, assuming you’re still with me through all of this, I want to touch on the fact that it is possible you’ve never used social media and have no idea what to do. There are a few solutions I’d recommend. First, do you have someone in your family or friend circle that knows how to use these platforms and is willing to show you around? If not, fear not – IT’S THE DIGITAL AGE, BABY! YouTube will save you, online articles, step-by-step guides…. just google, “How do I use Facebook/Instagram/etc” and you will be met with a slew of info. You can easily learn about branding yourself via social media, how to do vlogs on YouTube (another platform we didn’t cover in-depth), and the best ways to advertise events or sales. Some local libraries do free classes, some folks out on the InterWebs will charge a small fee to come over and help you…. so many options! The great thing is, the basics of these platforms aren’t difficult. Once you get into hashtags and the SEO, it is a different story (and again, Google can save you!) but just getting your presence out there is 90% of the battle, isn’t it?
I’ll leave you with this:
These are stories of people who wouldn’t be where they are without social media… some for business and some to just market their own skills and talents!
- This Entrepreneur Article
- This other Entrepreneur Article
- This blog post – with a great feature of the creator of Humans of New York
- This recommendation to do a google search on “Entrepreneurs who succeeded thanks to social media”
So… what are you waiting for? SIGN UP, SIGN IN, and GET TO POSTING!
As always, my contact information is at the bottom of my website – please feel free to shoot me a message! Thoughts, comments, concerns? Let me know!
About the author:
Leah is an information technology student currently studying internet concepts and how they relate to business. In her free time, she enjoys running, crafts, traveling and spending time with her little family.
***Images used in this blog post came from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wocintechchat/
References for those who want to do further research:
Facebook, Instagram Are Influencers’ Favorite Social Platforms. (2016). Emarketer. Retrieved from: https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Facebook-Instagram-Influencers-Favorite-Social-Platforms/1014349
Hayes, J. P., Chawla, S. K., & Kathawala, Y. (2015). A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF SMALL BUSINESSES IN THE U.S. AND MEXICO. The Journal of Developing Areas, 49(3), 395-406. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy2.apus.edu/docview/1711615613?accountid=8289
Husain, S., Ghufran, A., & Chaubey, D. S. (2016). Relevance of social media in marketing and advertising. Splint International Journal of Professionals, 3(7), 21-28. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy2.apus.edu/docview/1906047118?accountid=8289
Jones, N., Borgman, R., & Ulusoy, E. (2015). Impact of social media on small businesses. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 22(4), 611-632. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy2.apus.edu/docview/1732337162?accountid=8289
Mansfield, Matt. (2016). Social Media Marketing Statistics Important to Small Businesses. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://smallbiztrends.com/2016/12/social-media-marketing-statistics.html