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Social Media in Small Business is Anything But Small

In celebration of National Small Business Week

For entrepreneurs, business owners, investors, and consultants, one of the most exciting prospects of social media, lies in the ability to dramatically amplify your visibility and value proposition among existing and potential stakeholders. Social Media finally places small, local and emerging businesses in the spotlight in ways that up until this point, were largely unattainable.

New Media is rapidly shifting the landscape of how people find and share information and much of it isn’t just moving online, it’s connecting people in ways that weave a dedicated network of prospects and advocates within networks that invite your value-added participation. As a result, once scattered customer-bases are now unifying online as concentrated contextual markets, enabling the establishment of bridges and highways between businesses and prospects and ultimately creating new opportunities in the process.

Small Business is Anything But Small

When combined, small business and social media marketing is anything but small. As eMarketer recently noted, small business is doubling adoption of social networks and there’s very good reason for that. Need proof?

The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business along with Network Solutions recently published its third wave of the Small Business Success Index (SBSI), a study that reveals the extent to which small businesses are embracing social media. The results are staggering and serve as a harbinger of new business dynamics.

Social media adoption among U.S. small businesses doubled in the past year from 12% to 24%. And that’s just the beginning.

61% of small business owners use social media to identify and attract new customers.

75% surveyed have a company page on a social networking site.

45% expect social media to be profitable in the next 12 months.

As part of the study, 500 small business owners shared their experience and expectations of social media. As we can see, creating a presence in social networks ranks at the top of the list, but that’s only the surface. We reveal more insight with each layer we peel back. Of those, 69% are posting updates within their network of choice, with just over half of all business owners focusing on the development of dedicated online communities and also listening to customer feedback.

– 75% reported having a company page on a social network, including LinkedIn or Facebook

– 69% actively post updates on social networks

– 57% are proactively building networks within sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook

-54% monitor customer feedback within social networks

– 39% host a blog to demonstrate expertise

– 26% Tweet about areas of expertise

– 16% use Twitter as a customer service channel

Source: Mashable

Social Media serves as a platform to identify, learn, and connect with customers and prospects along with those who influence their decisions. As in anything, you get out of it what you put into it. The study also examined how small business owners rated the performance of social media tactics against expectations.

At the top of the list, 73% of business owners anticipated that social networks would improve the ability to identify and attract new customers with 61% realizing success today. Of course, visibility is instrumental in earning a position within any cycle of evaluation and decision making and as such, 56% expected to increase awareness within target markets with 52% stating that their objective was met. Engagement is the key to everything and thus, I was surprised to see the numbers for both expectation and accomplishments at only 46% for customer engagement within social networks.

Identify and attract new customers
Expectations: 73%
Accomplishments: 61%

Develop a higher awareness of your organization within your target market
Expectations: 56%
Accomplishments: 52%

Stay engaged with current customers
Expectations: 46%
Accomplishments: 46%

Collaborate more effective externally, such as with suppliers, partners, and colleagues
Expectations: 34%
Accomplishments: 35%

Collaborate more effectively internally
Expectations: 26%
Accomplishments: 21%

Expectations: 12%
Accomplishments: 9%

Monetization of social media is of course, at the top of the list for all business owners. They want to know that their efforts will pay off, sometimes trumping patience and strategy. Nearly 1/2 believe that social media will make money within the next 12 months and another 53% suggest that their investment in social is already breaking even.  Surprisingly, only 9% stated that social will lose money, but 22% reported that their engagement within social networks is already paying off.

Overall, 58% believe that social media has met their expectations. And, herein lies the true opportunity. As we all think about what we know in terms of social networks, we realize that possibilities and success are practically infinite and that learning and experience are practically equalized for everyone. Those who experiment and practice become the veterans in a new medium abundant with students and starved of teachers. That’s why this is such an incredible time.

This is your time to engage and become the expert you seek. By answering our own questions, we can participate in social networks in ways that boost visibility, attract customers, and empower a team of advocates to create new business opportunities, improved customer service, and also a more valuable service offering as tuned by our stakeholders.

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