Can Social Media Benefit Your Business?
by Shannon Suetos
Are Twitter, Facebook and blogging a waste of your time? Or are you missing out if you don't take full advantage of them? Here are some hard facts to help you cut through the hype to determine if social media can help your business grow.
There has been a debate for some time now on the effectiveness of social media. There are great arguments had on both sides, but the fact remains there seems to be a stand off between the users and the non-users. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal discusses how beneficial social media really is for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University tells the WSJ that, "The hype right now exceeds the reality." But recent statistics are showing despite the hype, business owners are in fact implementing some sort of social media efforts.
eMarketer did a study asking marketers many questions about social marketing and they found for those that use social marketing, “more than one-half of respondents said that Facebook was “extremely” or “somewhat” effective. Somewhat fewer said the same of LinkedIn, and just 35% considered Twitter effective.”
Another factor to consider is that according to study done by Unica, “North American marketers are more quickly adopting social media. More than half of companies (58%) of companies are using the tactic, versus in Europe, where only 34% are doing so.”
How to Implement Social Media Effectively
So it seems businesses are in fact trying, but the main argument against social media is, “how effective is social media for my business?” The key to benefiting from social media seems to be by actively engaging in the networks that you find beneficial for your company.
You can’t expect it to work if you simply put up a profile and think that will bring in clients. Jacob Morgan, the co-owner of Cheese Media Group Corp. (a social media consulting firm) says that, “To gain positive results, entrepreneurs need to regularly interact with consumers through these sites and not simply create static profiles.”
If you tackle social media like you would an event in “real life” you will find better success. Think of it this way, if you went to a networking event, but just sat in the corner and said nothing would you find the event beneficial? Probably not, and the same goes for social networking. If you just put your profile up and don’t involve yourself into the conversation going on how could it be beneficial?
Instead allocate a certain amount of time a day to participating in your social media strategies. If you decide to blog, make sure you are updating it regularly and keeping the information current. Think of your blog as something your customers are going to want to come by to read—if you don’t update it on a regular basis why would they come back? Again brining in the factor of not just putting up a profile--keep the conversation going.
Becoming More Personable
Social media helps bring you closer to your customers. Twitter for example is a great way to aid in your customer service. Zappos.com does a great job of this and even has employees dedicated to answering questions via Twitter. Every little bit helps and having your customers be able to get answers to questions without the press 1 for this and 2 for that is much more appealing.
In the end the answer to the question if social media is works for small businesses is yes and no. It all depends on how effectively your company uses social media. Just like other marketing strategies, you need to set goals and objectives and work hard at your efforts to make it work well for your company.
Shannon Suetos is a writer based in San Diego, California. She writes extensively for an online resource that provides expert advice on purchasing and outsourcing decisions for small business owners and entrepreneurs at Resource Nation.