Small businesses employ social media to generate new business, should you?

In a month that has seen the long anticipated Facebook flotation, and some valuing Pinterest at an eye-watering $1.5 billion, Sage’s Business Development Director asks what’s stopping businesses from getting “social”? If you’re struggling to get your business started on social media ask us a question by adding a comment.

I recently read an insightful article from the FT outlining how small businesses are increasingly depending on social media to drum-up new leads and manage their reputation.Nicole Anderson-Mort

This article suggests that, if your customers are under 40 and you are not on the web, you are more or less invisible.

As social networking has become an essential part of many people’s everyday life, businesses have made use of this trend by marketing their products and scouting new customers from the 1 billion people worldwide who use social media.

In this way, small businesses are harnessing the networking potential of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to provide a cost effective substitute to the more traditional print advertising and trade directories.

Social media is proving to be an invaluable tool for businesses allowing them to get closer to customers, to listen to their viewpoints, detect possible opportunities for improvement, present new product promotions and gauge consumer sentiment.

A large number of the UK’s small businesses are already using these sites to their benefit. For example, Sage customer Garbeau, a Made to Measure shirts supplier based in Galway and Newcastle, has shown that by engaging on social media sites a company can better understand its customers and increase sales.

But surprisingly, according to the FT article, ‘Whilst 1.1m small businesses are online and are using sites such as Facebook successfully, more than half (660,000) have yet to get themselves online at all.’’ Is this due to fear of the unknown, lack of resources or another more important reason? Do businesses know how to devise a clear social media strategy that will enable them to develop a clear message and understanding of the target audience they want to reach?

How can you tackle this?

Firstly, with limited time and resources it is vital to find the social network that works best for your brand, and to do that you have to understand that they each have different purposes, audiences and user expectations.

Secondly, maintaining open and transparent dialogue with consumers through social media channels can lead to constructive insights that can help inform product offering and prices.

On the flipside it’s important to realise that if a product or service does not satisfy users it can generate a lot of negative buzz online very quickly. To prevent this from happening frequent monitoring and a timely response to conversations when appropriate is key.

Lastly, remember that it is not the number of followers or the size of your network that dictates how successful your approach is; it’s about the quality of your followers and to what extent they are engaged.

It is evident from the article that, in order for small businesses to remain competitive in the current climate, they have to connect with their clients online. We always advise our customers to devise a strategy that works best for them, as it is not a one size fits all policy. Businesses should give their social media strategy the same time, planning and research that they would give to any other important decisions to ensure a successful outcome.

So what is stopping you? If you have any burning questions about social media please share them below and we’ll get our team to answer them.

Nicole Anderson-Mort (@NicoleAnMo), Business Development Director at Sage UK and Ireland

  • Social networking has proven itself to be the most effective method of advertising for my business, not to mention the cheapest.

    Don’t get me wrong. It’s a lot of hard work to keep on top of them all, but it can be fun.

    In the past I’ve spent ridiculous amounts on local advertising and got little return from it. But the internet and Social Networking has driven so much attention to my work that I now focus all my attention to it.

    More people seem to contact me through Facebook than by Telephone or email. If this is the prefered chosen method for potential customers to contact you, then so be it. It’s just up to me to insure that it is equally as affective as a phone. And the only way to do that is to make your responses rapid.

    Like I said it’s hard work staying on top of it all, but hey! Whatever has to be done will be done.

    Smart Phones also help with Push notifications etc. so you can always do it all on the move, and be well informed.

  • Steve Monk

    I’m looking at starting a new business and am looking for the most effective means to place my service and products in front of potential customers. Using social media I believe is the right way to do this as opposed to more traditional advertising in e.g. Yellow Pages

    I now have to find people with the right skills to help me achieve my goals – for reasonable fees of course!