This post was created for our blog by Clutch to highlight our participation reviewing and discussing a series of recent survey findings about social media marketing for small businesses.
He reflected on the survey findings, imparted advice about how small businesses can use social media effectively, and postulated about the future of social media marketing.
Reflections on Survey Findings
Small businesses see social media as the digital marketing channel of choice, followed by website usage, email marketing, and SEO. However, despite social media’s popularity in the small business market, just over half of small businesses, 57 percent, have a social media presence.
Why do small businesses see social media marketing as a priority for 2016?
“Social media can be helpful, especially if a company is taking part in the paid opportunities because it becomes extremely targeted, which is good for generating leads and driving relevant traffic to your website. It also provides businesses with the opportunity to build a brand voice and tell its story.” – Jeff Gibbard
However, Gibbard warns that a poorly executed or mismanaged social media strategy can drain company resources and waste time.
Overall, social media is most effective in conjunction with other digital marketing tactics. For example, if you regularly publish articles on your company’s website, social media can be used to share these articles — get them in front of the people who will find them useful.
“Social media by itself doesn’t do very much. It needs to exist on the basis of building your email list or driving people to your website. … Social media as a priority digital marketing channel only makes sense if you’ve already been doing email marketing and building websites.” – Jeff Gibbard
Social Media Advice for Small Businesses
Within the next few years the amount of small businesses using social media as part of their digital marketing strategy will increase. In fact, 72 percent of small businesses plan to implement a social media marketing plan by 2017 or later.
As more small businesses get into the social media game, it is important to understand how to craft an effective social strategy.
1.) Develop a Thoughtful Plan
Gibbard emphasizes the importance of clearly defining an objective, instead of blindly posting content on multiple social media channels.
“Start thinking about what you want to accomplish first. You should start small, build a foundation, and learn from what works and what does not. … You have to be very goal-oriented from the start.” – Jeff Gibbard
2.) Consider Post Quantity and Quality
No universal rules determine how often businesses should share content or engage with followers on social media. In general though, small businesses that engage in social media tend to post on a daily (26%) or weekly (35%) basis.
Social media usage depends on a business’ goals and function. For example, does your business want to generate leads, build awareness, or conduct customer research?
Instead of focusing on frequency, Gibbard advises small businesses to ensure the quality of the content they share.
“Post frequency is not really the issue. The focus should be less on quantity and more on quality. It’s better to understand what resonates with your customer or the audience you’re trying to reach.” – Jeff Gibbard
However, there is one caveat. If your competitors use social media frequently, you have to compete to be seen.
“When it comes to frequency, you have to understand that there’s a lot of content flowing through these channels. If you’re not present but your competitors are, you’re losing the ability to get in front of the target audience that you want to reach. You have to be in the game to a certain extent.” – Jeff Gibbard
3.) Select The Social Channels That Are Best For You
It is unnecessary for a small business to be on numerous social media channels, especially in the initial stages of social media marketing. To identify the channels that are a good fit for you, consider three questions.
- What channels does your audience use?
- What story do you want to tell?
- What content do you want to share?
“Your audience will probably exist across multiple sites. The question is wehther you can actually get in from of them. For example, if your audience is on both Pinterest and Facebook, how difficult is it to reach them on either channel?” – Jeff Gibbard
The Future of Social Media For Small Businesses
As social media platforms continue to evolve and alter how users interact with content and each other, how small businesses use social media will transform as well.
In particular, paid social media may become more popular in this market.
“I foresee an increase in the number of small businesses that explore paid social media. I think this increase in social spending will also be complemented by a dip next year, when these same small businesses begin to question whether the paid strategy is effective.” – Jeff Gibbard
Gibbard points out that social networks will make the paid options easier for small businesses to use in response to waxing and waning support.