SMBs and Social Media: A Brief Recap and a Few Predictions In our previous post on SMBs and Social Media, we discussed how small and mid-sized companies can get the maximum benefits from their social media marketing efforts. A lot has happened in the social media space since then. Google+ was launched, Facebook‘s facelift grabbed the headlines, and Twitter launched its revamped version. While some SMBs embraced the changes, there were others who continued to remain wary as far as social media marketing was concerned. Here’s the story so far and what to expect in the year ahead:
- Although comparatively slower to adapt social media marketing, there has been a gradual increase in the use of channels like Facebook, Twitter etc by small and medium-size business owners over the past four years (eMarketer). Over 35% of US small businesses reported using online social networking for marketing in 2011.
- Despite 2011 being a tough year for businesses, SMB marketers see social media as the light at the end of the tunnel and are quite optimistic about 2012.
- According to a Zoomerang Online Surveys and Polls and GrowBizMedia SMB forecast for 2012, 1/3rd of respondents plan on using advertising, marketing and social media as the primary methods of attracting new customers. This is despite 25% admitting to not being entirely comfortable with social media tools.
- Affordability (66%), use by customers (56%), and potential as word-of-mouth referral source (55%) were the primary reasons why SMB marketers use social media (SMB Business Perspectives: 2011 Results and 2012 Projections).
- In a Q1 2011 survey by Network Solutions, it was revealed that 63% of SMBs felt that social media greatly contributed to increase in customer loyalty, while 25% said that their investments in social media marketing added to profits.
- As far as active sales are concerned, over 1/2 of US SMBs said that social media sites played a crucial role (Hubspot).
- 2011 saw small businesses use daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial with great enthusiasm. Industry experts are wondering if this will take off on a larger scale in 2012.
While 2011 has been a mixed bag, marketers of small and medium-sized businesses are confident about the year ahead and plan on using social media in one form or the other for marketing purposes. With marketing budgets being planned, promotional strategies and campaigns being designed, early 2012 certainly is a busy time. Keeping this in mind, the Position² Brand Monitor team has researched and gathered some crucial material on how SMBs can effectively use social media marketing, in a manner that should make preparing for 2012 less challenging and a lot enjoyable. This, we have presented in a two part series.
Gearing Up for the Year Ahead: Part One
- The Good News for SMBs
It is no secret that SMBs have always been more comfortable with email marketing when compared to other methods. According to Zoomerang, email marketing was the second most preferred choice among SMB brands in 2011; although, this may not be the case in the next few years. Considering the rapid pace at which businesses are jumping onto the social media bandwagon, for these marketers the choice is between moving with the times and getting left behind.
- Social Media or Email? Before we list the benefits of using Facebook and Twitter as promotional tools, it is first important to understand why small business owners are more comfortable with email marketing. Our research shows that smaller brands with financial constraints find this method a) more personalized and b) easy-on-the-wallet. We wouldn’t disagree. However, what these brands need to understand is that the modern consumer is social-savvy and time-strapped and may not have as much patience with emails. That social media marketing is time-consuming and expensive is a myth. Looking the Zoomerang study, we know that social media marketing is gradually gaining momentum. The smart small business marketer knows that this is a) just as cost-effective (if not more) b) easy-to-use with practice and c) considering the growing popularity of networking channels like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter (to name a few), a better way of connecting with prospective customers.
- The Best of Both Worlds: SMBs have been using email for a long time now; which explains why they are hesitant to choose social media over the tried-tested-and-successful formula of email marketing. Today’s small business owners, however, favor the middle ground and are looking to combine the two methods. The 2012 Marketing Trends survey shows that an impressive 68% of respondents (SMBs) are open to integrating their social media marketing directly into their email programs. For brands gearing up for the year ahead, it would be wise to invest your marketing dollars in the right direction and get the most out of the email-social media combination.
- Emergence of the Mobile Era
Industry experts are of the opinion that most online marketers will increase focus on mobile marketing in 2012 and SMBs are no exception. The year 2011 saw brands design their online marketing strategies keeping the mobile customer in mind. In our opinion, 2011 was only a tip of the iceberg. Here’s why we think SMBs should include mobile in their 2012 marketing checklist:
- Catering to the Mobile Population: According to the recent Ad-ology Research report, 21.8% of small-business owners are planning to dedicate more resources to mobile marketing in 2012. Additionally, one in five surveyed SMB decision-makers also plan to develop a mobile app. The increase in smartphone penetration and growing use of mobile phones by customers has prompted SMBs to integrate mobile with their online marketing strategies. If these stats aren’t reason enough for small and medium businesses to invest in mobile marketing, here’s something else; one of the biggest demographics that use mobile devices are the youth. Considering how economically empowered today’s young customers are, this is one target market SMBs wouldn’t want to miss.
- Using Location Based Services: With people increasingly using location based services like Foursquare, Facebook Places and Yelp from their mobile devices, SMB marketers have found a new way of marketing their products and services to customers. As far as mobile marketing is concerned, we expect location based services to be the next big thing. Keeping this in mind, our advice to owners of small and medium business is that, going forward, they should focus on using some sort location-based services (LBS) to cater to the rapidly growing mobile demographic. The Columbus Sandwich Company, for instance, is an example of how small businesses can use LBS for direct targeting. The company uses a specific location service, Seven Lunches, which is a mobile app that shows the customer daily specials from restaurants and cafes nearby, helping them get the best deals and the best information.
What about Social Media Platforms? Can SMBs expect something from Google+? Will Facebook continue to be the preferred choice?
In the first part of our series, we discussed how SMBs can better prepare for 2012 by combining social media with email marketing and the importance and benefits and of mobile marketing. In the second and final part, we will focus on how marketers can get the most out of Google+ in 2012. In addition to this, we will also discuss the dilemma faced by many SMBs, especially, the new entrants; i.e. the question of choosing between Facebook and Twitter and which platform is likely to offer maximum advantages. You can either subscribe to our blog’s RSS feed or watch this space for more.