Can your small business survive without social media? I would answer a verrry tentative maybe. While there are pros and cons to getting active on social media with your business, you need to make sure that you are making the right decision for you and what you want to accomplish in the long term. With over 4.2 Billion active social media users, this is a major marketing tool and a decision you shouldn’t take lightly.
Let’s talk about some of the good, the bad (… and the ugly?) about social media and whether you should use it as a tool for marketing your small business.
Pro: Solidify your brand presence
Having your customers and potential customers remember who you are when it comes time to make a purchase is half the battle in business. Maintaining a consistent social media presence helps to keep your brand top of mind. It also give you the opportunity to create brand consistency across multiple communication channels and create opportunities for more people to discover you – almost 90% of marketers agree! With the consistency and active online presence, it also helps to legitimize your business – no matter how big or small you are.
Pro: Makes it easy for your audience to connect with you – and find new customers
Social media is live and active 24/7. So it gives you the opportunity to connect with your audience outside of “traditional” office hours. You can connect with a broader audience anytime, from anywhere. And if you’re selling through social media, that means that people can buy from you 24/7 as well. Did you know that, for almost 75% of consumers, social media influences their ultimate purchase decision? Social media followers are constantly looking for high quality content from the brands they follow (not high quantity!!).
Pro: You can build better relationships with your customers
Once someone is a customer, you still have to work at keeping them as a customer. Social media helps you to engage with your community regularly. The nature of social media is to be social, so you there are plenty of opportunities for 2-way dialogue. You can even run your customer service channel through social media without using a fancy software installed on your website. Make sure that whatever conversations you’re having, you take the time to learn about your customers and what they want from you. It can actually lead to customers spending 40% more in the long run.
Pro: There is something for everyone, so you can tailor your strategy
There seems to be a steady stream of new social media platforms to choose from (hello, TikTok) – but it’s also OK to stick to the tried and tested ones that have been around for a “long” time (think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc). Your audience likely isn’t active on all social media platforms, so you don’t need to be either. Pick and choose based on where your customers hang out and what you can handle. No point in biting off more than you can chew!
Pro: It’s easy to keep an eye on your competitors
You always need to be aware of what your competitors are up to – not so you can copy them, but it’s a great way to see what is working and not working in your industry.
Pro: It can help you stretch your marketing budget further
Remember, social media isn’t free. Time is money and you do need to invest time into content creation and engagement. HOWEVER… It is a lower cost marketing tactic than many others out there. In fact, it can allow you to stretch your marketing budget pretty far while competing with some of the larger brands in your industry.
Con: It’s not the only marketing out there, so you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket
You should try to build a marketing strategy that has some variety and helps to connect you with your customers in different ways. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Create a loyalty program
- Start a referral program
- Traditional PR
- Conferences and events
- Focus on creating content for other channels (dust off that blog!)
- Email marketing
- In-store promos (but keep in mind that even if you have a brick-and-mortar location over 90% of customers have visited because they saw you online.)
Con: People can be mean on social media
No explanation really needed, but we all know that a certain level of anonymity can attract the trolls.
Con: It can be easy to get sucked into hours on hours of scrolling
So many entrepreneurs I speak with say they don’t have time for social media – that they always end up spending multiple hours a day on each platform, which takes away from running other aspects of their business. If you are one of the 47% of business owners who say they manage their marketing on their own, then social media can seem daunting. While this can happen, it can be prevented with careful planning. There are so many scheduler platforms and other tools that can make your life easier. Also, it helps to schedule your social media time – and stick to it – to keep you on track during the day.
Con: It’s easy to get caught up in the wrong numbers
We’ve talked before about vanity metrics on social media. Remember that your success is NOT determined by how many followers you have. What matters is the quality of interactions you have with customers and potential customers. It’s all about shifting your perspective and building your strategy accordingly.
As you can see… I am very pro social media. Used in the right ways, it can be a very valuable resource for your business to help you grow. Of course, there will always be that one outlier where social media just doesn’t make sense… but you have to ask yourself what you want to accomplish with your business and whether or not social media can help you get there.
Candace Huntly is Founding Partner at SongBird Marketing Communications, an award-winning agency working to take organizational and individual brands to the next level. With a passion for all things related to creativity and strategy, she specializes in business intelligence, marketing & branding, content strategy & development, media & influencer relations, and social media. Basically, if you need to put your brand, product, or cause in the public eye, she will find a way to do it, while making the approach unique to you.
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A version of this article was originally posted to the SongBird Marketing Communications blog.