Making Social Media Work for You and Your Business
It's now easier than ever to communicate with customers. Find out how to maximise this cost-effective marketing tool to reach a wide audience
With so many people around the world participating in social media, there is a huge opportunity for businesses to communicate with the consumer. According to statistics in its IPO, Facebook, the largest and most popular social network, currently has 845 million monthly active users (Techcrunch, February 2012). For a growing business, this equates to 845 million potential customers.
Social media opens the door for businesses to listen to what customers are saying about their products and respond to all comments, whether positive or negative. Advertising on social media has become one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to reach a wide audience.
A survey by Regus 2011 has shown that 42% of small businesses win business using social media, compared to 35% of companies that have over 250 employees, and that 9% more small firms devote at least 20% of their marketing budget to using social media to gain new customers. Celia Donne, regional director at Regus said:
“Social networking has finally come into its own in the commercial world, with the small business sector taking full advantage of their business contacts and commercial agility to surge ahead of the game when it comes to finding new customers.”
However, many companies still hesitate when venturing into public social media networks, harbouring fears of possible customer criticism such as negative comments on the company’s website. Whilst care does need to be taken when planning social media activity, there are undoubtedly significant benefits of integrating social media into small business operations:
- Social media is a low-cost, low-barrier communication channel that allows businesses to interact with internal and external contacts on a regular basis.
- Social media enables businesses to engage with millions of potential customers and investors available at the click of a button.
- Social media and analytic tools used within a company’s private network can allow employers to track employee sentiments and discover possible areas of contention faster than through traditional means.
- Not only have user figures grown across social media websites but so have usage levels and time spent on social networking sites. A report from The Nielsen Company Showed that there has been a huge increase of 82% in time spent on social networking sites. Across the globe over the past year average time spent on social networking sites grew from 3 hours per month to 5.5 hours. In addition Nielsen concluded that overall social media sites such as Facebook are now the most common homepages for users and that people now spend the majority of their internet time using social networks or blogs.
Facebook’s growth in the UK continues with a reported 24 million active users. It now accounts for over half of all visits to social networking sites in the UK, with YouTube sitting in second with over 17% of visits. You can set up a business page on Facebook to share what your business is doing openly, and it is the perfect way to connect with clients, share feedback, act as a customer service portal, make offers and share opinions.
LinkedIn is viewed as the business social media site is viewed as the business social media site. It serves as a platform where connections can be searched, active groups joined in your industry and interests, and help sought and found. Most LinkedIn users are professionals and business oriented; users tend to be more senior (56% are individual contributors, 16% are management level, and 28% are directors). The majority (66%) are decision makers or have influence in the purchase decisions at their companies. This serves as a great opportunity to look for help and advice. Joining groups allows you to ask questions, find mentors and connect with people in your industry who have been where you are now.
As part of BCSG’s innovative product portfolio, ThriveOnline is an online marketing cost-effective way to quickly reach your target customers. Partnering with Google, Bing, Experian and Scoot, ThriveOnline allows you to make the most of your marketing budget. This one-day, face-to-face interactive workshop is designed to help small business owners establish an online presence and attract new customers, therefore growing their business. It is delivered by CIPD qualified trainers in eleven centers across the UK.
John Davis is Managing Director of Business Centric Services Group (BSCG).