According to a recent Manta survey, a staggering 90 percent of small business owners are using the web to network with potential customers and promote products and services. In seeking to connect with and grow an audience online, small businesses frequently turn to social media sites. And why not? With user numbers in the hundreds of millions, sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Google+ offer small businesses the chance to reach current customers and the opportunity to acquire many more.
Still, though social media is a popular marketing tool for small businesses, it can also be a minefield of potentially costly and critical mistakes. There are several key ways in which small businesses are continuing to miss opportunities to maximize their social media marketing potential. Here are a few of the biggest:
- Believing social media is free. According to a recent survey by Vocus and Duct Tape Marketing, decision makers at small and medium-sized businesses consider overcoming the perception that social media is free as their biggest social media challenge. It is clear from the survey that small and medium-sized businesses are currently using social media for a significant percentage of their marketing efforts but are doing so with relatively minimal investment. In fact, a remarkable 73 percent of respondents indicated that their companies had added social media duties to the workload of current employees, while only 43 percent had hired staff specifically to handle social media. Creating and maintaining a truly engaging social media presence takes time and effort, and the time and effort of employees requires a financial investment.
- Not responding to customers. Social media is not about the old marketing and promotion techniques that involved a one-sided “push” of information from company to customer. The new world that’s been created by Web 2.0 is one in which engagement and conversation are key. The use of social media is not about controlling your message. It’s about starting – and continuing – a conversation with your customers.
- All business, all the time. This one is related to the above: small businesses need to remember that using social media should be like having a conversation. A one-sided stream of posts or tweets touting the merits of a particular product? Not a conversation. Treating customers as people – and not just consumers – is the key. Have a unique personalized voice when connecting with customers. Share links, post questions to open up a dialogue, personalize posts to connect more deeply with customers.
Social media has become an integral part of doing businesses for companies of all sizes. Small businesses in particular have the opportunity to reach a larger audience through social media than they might be able to reach through more traditional advertising and marketing channels. However, in order to maximize results, small businesses must avoid making and repeating some pretty big – and pretty common – errors. By remembering that social media marketing success requires a financial investment, a conversation with customers, and a unique personalized voice, small businesses can make the most of their social networking efforts.