It comes as little surprise that among the SMB crowd, social media is gaining more and more traction. For many of the common reasons that SMB’s can be slower to adopt certain manners and methods of anything (lack of time, lack of resources etc) the adoption rate of social media offerings has been slow to get going but it’s going. A recent report from the American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor (as reported by eMarketer) shows that the shift continues toward social media being an increasingly important part of the SMB marketing repertoire over the past 4 years.
As for which social media outlets are being used? The bulk of the concentration is on Facebook while LinkedIn and Twitter are the other major players. One statistic I find a little disappointing is the relatively low use of blogs by the SMB space. I am not a full believer that a blog necessarily wins customers but the SEO benefits of a blog combined with the ability to truly engage a very real part of any customer base seems to elude most SMB’s. Many are just afraid to commit to writing anything which is a strategic error that many, many SMB’s make.
While an SMB saying that they use social media is nice, the other side of this coin is the one that really needs to be looked at in greater detail. That area is the effective use of social media and other online marketing tools. Many SMB’s answer the question of “Do you have a Facebook page / Twitter accountfor your business” with “Sure, I have one!” The real important question, however, is “Are you maximizing your social media presence?” Other questions that often baffle the SMB are “Are you effectively monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of your Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn presence?” as well as “What is the true benefit to your business of having a social media presence?”
This lack of nuance exists because many SMB’s just settle for being there with regard to social media. In other words, they don’t understand how to manage social media in a way that they can truly get business value from it. Many jump in without any planning or forethought only to abandon their efforts after very short periods of time due to a perceived lack of response both from their staff and their customers.
Of the 35% of SMB’s from the OPEN survey who say they are using social media, I would bet that at the very least, half of them have not paid any real attention to that presence or have given up on their efforts prematurely. Most SMB’s don’t understand the amount of effort that goes into making these communication channels work. As a result, they will turn to the wonderful social media expert / guru / ninja crowd who has hung out a shingle proclaiming their vast knowledge of the space only because they themselves have lost a job or have been forced to find other ways to generate income. All in all, it’s a very rough scene for the SMB in the social media space due to sheer ignorance. That’s a shame but it happens more often than not.
So what would be a great next step is moving beyond the simple “Are you involved in _______?” questions and get to the meat of the situation? Questions need to be asked and answered like “How often are you updating your social media efforts?” or “How are these social media efforts used to support and enhance other marketing efforts?” or “How are measuring the effectiveness of your social media campaigns?” or “Do you even have a strategy or are you just winging it?” These questions will help the SMB to move from simply playing along to gaining true business value from the activities that all the cool kids say they should be doing.
What is your experience in working with or for an SMB when it comes to social media? What percentage of those you talk to ‘get it’? How willing are they to invest their resources into really working the social media space to their business advantage? It’s questions like these that will help the SMB grow in this space and get beyond the idea that just being there is enough.
Because let’s face it, just being there isn’t even half the battle. It’s just the start of it.