The majority of small businesses (52%) believe that having a social media presence is important, according to a national poll of 500 small business owners or managers commissioned by EMPLOYERS. Yet only 16% of U.S. small businesses say they use social media to engage their customers — since there are 29.7 million small businesses in the U.S. according to the Small Business Administration, that means 4.75 million are currently leveraging the social Web.
According to the Small Business Opinion Poll:
- 52% believe having a social media presence is important for a company
- 59% of small businesses with a social media presence say it has provided value
- 16% of those polled have a business account (representing 4,752,000 based on SBA data)
- 49% say that their social media presence has produced advocates for their business
- 65% with a social media presence say they actively use it for promotion
8 fundamentals for using social-media channels to build customer relationships
EMPLOYERS offers the following tips:
- Be a good listener: Once you sift through the social media noise and find the kinds of people with whom you wish to engage, take the time to hear what’s being said before jumping in.
- Think of social media as a conversation rather than a marketing vehicle: In many respects, social media is like a giant room with millions of people in it, talking about thousands of subjects. Your task is to locate the part of the conversation that matters to you and find a way to participate. And, just like a conversation in the real world, if you bully your way in and try to dominate, people will just turn away.
- Consider your objectives: Whether you want to improve awareness of your brand, listen for customer comments about your business, or track what your competitors are up to, it’s important to establish your objectives and focus on them. Otherwise, social media can be incredibly time-consuming.
- Join in: You may as well participate, because the conversation goes on whether you choose to take part or not. By participating, you get to tell your part of the story.
- Inform rather than “me-form”: When you encounter a post, or series of posts, that you can add value to, do it. But you would do well to think in terms of contributing to the conversation rather than making a blunt sales pitch.
- Understand your target audiences: Knowing the needs and engagement-style of the people you want to connect with will give you a much better chance of having a positive experience with the conversations you join.
- Practice makes perfect: Refining your social media efforts by testing different ways to improve your engagement with agents and small business owners is a smart approach. Social media is definitely not a one-size-fits-all environment. Find what works best for you.
- Work smart: By using free tools like HootSuite and Google Alerts, you can set up a fairly sophisticated Internet listening program at virtually no cost.