Just as you’d expect with any new type of technology, social media has been a tool that small business owners have slowly adopted over the past several years. While the numbers haven’t spiked up, they are steadily rising, according to the 2012 Small and Medium Social Business Study conducted by the SMB Group.
Once small businesses realize the value in using sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google + to find new prospects and build relationships with existing clients, it seem like adoption increases. I imagine they also follow suit to what big business is doing, budget allowing.
But that’s not all small businesses. A full 47%, according to the study, aren’t using social media currently. That’s a number I expect to shrink in coming years, but by how much, well, that’s anyone’s guess.
Overall, social media use by small businesses rose 9% from 2011 to 2012. The biggest slice of that was of businesses that use it in an “ad hoc manner,” without an appropriate strategy in place. This is to their detriment. Social media is an effective tool–if used appropriately.
Building a Social Media Strategy…or Not
If you don’t have a social media strategy in place, you might be better off not using it at all. Wasting time or resources without an end goal in mind just gets you spinning your wheels and getting frustrated.
Social media is great for building your brand and interacting with customers and contacts. It’s not going to get you instant sales or a million-person spike in web traffic. But it will give customers another channel (or three) to connect with you, and that helps you stay on top of their minds.
Once you have a strategy, you can determine how you will implement it. Social media can be used for so many things:
- Responding to customer service inquiries
- Conducting market research
- Keeping your followers up to date on your company
- Build trust with customers
- Generate leads and sales
- Monitor your online reputation
Don’t be afraid to try several of these, but do have a strategy for each one. And give it time. Social media uses the snowball effect: it takes a while to build, but once it’s rolling, it’s bigger and more successful.
If you’re considering diving into social media, be honest with yourself: do you truly have the dedication to start using it effectively and build out a strategy, or are you just suffering from “me too” syndrome? If it’s the latter, wait until you’re ready and can fully dedicate yourself or other resources to using social media effectively.