A hundred years ago, most businesses were local brick-and-mortars that relied on door-to-door marketing to engage the public. As technology evolved, motion pictures, radio and television opened up new avenues for business marketing, eventually expanding to include direct mail, telemarketing, print advertising, trade shows and e-mail blasts. While these practices have proven successful over the years, many of today’s consumers now view them as intrusive, and have consequently become quite savvy at ignoring traditional marketing attempts.
Enter social media – a Web-based inbound approach to marketing that helps small businesses get found online. The term “social media” refers to various Web sites where people connect, interact and share online. Today, 62% of adults worldwide use some form of social media via computers, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, Internet-enabled TVs, handheld music players and e-readers.
Consider these statistics:
- One billion people actively use Facebook every month
- 500,000 people use Twitter every month
- Google’s +1 button is used 2+ billion times each day
- 5 million photos are uploaded to Instagram every hour
- 3,600 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every hour
While social media began as a way to connect friends and family, it has become the norm for all types of businesses – from mom and pop restaurants to high-tech firms – to have a social media presence. The Burson-Marstellar Fortune 100 Social Statistics Report for 2012 shows that:
- There are more than 10 million social mentions each month of Fortune 100 companies
- 87% of Fortune 100 companies use social media (Twitter is the most popular)
- 75% of Fortune 100 companies are on Facebook
- 50% of Fortune 100 companies have a Google+ account
- 25% of Fortune 100 companies have a Pinterest account
- Each corporate YouTube channel averages 2 million views
You don’t have to be a Fortune 100 company to take advantage of social media, but as the statistics demonstrate, today’s businesses are actively using social media. Coupled with the sheer number of people who actively participate in online social communities, it becomes difficult for small businesses to defend a stance against joining the social media movement.
As social media continues to change the way people communicate, it has become an increasingly important tool for small businesses. As Hannah Twigg, Digital Producer with The Program, explains, “Social media allows [small businesses] to have direct communication with their customers, with the potential to transform [the business] into a virtual sales team.” With so many people engaging in social media, it is difficult to ignore its potential to help businesses reach out to new and existing clients. Twigg affirms, “When it comes to recommendations for products and services, people trust other people they know far more than any sophisticated marketing campaign. The more ‘fans’ you create, the more ‘likes’ you motivate and the more ‘shares’ you inspire. As others in your customers’ circles observe what their friends and relatives promote, they will follow suit.”
Small businesses can implement social media strategies to reach and engage existing and potential clients, while spreading the word about their products and services. In today’s connected world, where customers research purchases online and seek recommendations from friends and family, it is in the best interest of most small businesses to have a vibrant and interactive social media presence. Here, we will review the various social media platforms, and explain how to implement a small business social media strategy.