How Should Small Businesses Use Social Media?
By Emma Kelly, founder and owner of Elevate PR
Social media is now just another part of the marketing mix for the SME sector. Recent figures show that 68% of Irish people are on Facebook, there are almost 550,000 Irish profiles on LinkedIn, 11% of adults over the age of 15 have a Twitter account and YouTube has 1.4 million Irish users*. These are numbers that cannot be ignored.
Social media is now part of everyday communications for all types of businesses, from global brands to small businesses. It is more than just a marketing and public relations channel; it is a new vehicle to collaborate and interact with customers. No longer is the question, ‘Should we be on social media?’, instead the question is ‘What is the correct social media channel for our product / target market and what is the strategy for that channel be it Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and / or YouTube?’
How should small businesses approach social media? David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and “World Wide Rave” says to think of social media as a cocktail party. “You don’t go to a cocktail party and go into the middle room and scream at the top of your lungs and say, ‘Buy my products.’ … What works is you have some meaningful conversation first. And that’s just how social media works.”
When we manage social media for our clients, the usual rules apply:
- Listen online to what is being said about the brand or company
- Identify the target market / audience
- Define success from the beginning, by setting goals and key performance indicators
- Measure and review the campaign
With some additional rules for online:
- Strong content is central to engaging with an online audience, what you say has to be of interest to your fans/followers
- Establishing share of voice and tracking it takes time
Social media provides many opportunities for small businesses to interact with existing and potential customers. While social media is cost effective, (i.e. it costs nothing to set up a Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn account apart from time), it does take time to listen to what your audience is saying about you online, build followers / likes / subscribers, create compelling content that will engage your audience, make them want to interact with you and ultimately share it with their followers and manage your brand’s online reputation and that’s where a PR or a digital agency can come in and provide support.
Embracing social networking for the first time can be daunting, so join me, Amanda Webb from Spiderworking.com and Beatrice Whelan, Social Media and Content Specialist at Sage Ireland, for a live Facebook Chat, ‘Lunch n’ Learn’, which focuses particularly on answering your questions around social media for small businesses.
*Sources – Eurobarometer poll 2011 and http://blog.neworld.com/2011/irish-social-media-statistics-may-2011/