In this day and age, a website is not enough for a web presence. In addition to websites, there are now social networks available to connect small businesses with customers. According to Georgieva, social networks have the ability to reach over 50 million customers Facebook is recommended for personal profiles, groups and pages. LinkedIn is a professional network that connects new people, consumers and companies. Twitter is a social network for exchanging short messages and YouTube publishes videos. For entrepreneurs and small businesses, social media platforms can be used as a vehicle for communicating with their targeted customer groups (Zauner, 2012).
According to Georgieva, social networks have the ability to reach over 50 million customers (Pencheva and Georgieva, 2012). Advertising campaigns shows that Facebook is probably the most effective online advertising media for most business segments globally. Facebook has over 500 million consumers, while Twitter has 85 million. Additionally, YouTube is second behind Google for web searches (Pencheva and Georgieva, 2012).Social Media can be called a strategy and an outlet for broadcasting while social networking is a tool and a utility for connecting with others (Edosomwam, 2011).
There are numerous benefits of social media campaigns. They are simple, user-friendly, inexpensive, scalable, internet- and mobile-based technologies that allow for the sharing of user-generated material. Fischer notes that, social media are sometimes described as audience created content as compared to content generated by media companies or publishing houses (Fischer, 2010)
It has also been said by Zauner that perceived brand value can positively influenced by encouraging interactions with groups of like-minded members on Facebook. In conjunction, branding with a group in a social context can be offered by a firm and/or a brand, but are primarily run by the consumers themselves. Friends and fans of small businesses become agents for the company by actively spreading its message within the group and also to new members.
Social Media Uses
Pencheva and Georgieva found Facebook to be the best site for small businesses and Business 2.0. According to them Facebook is ideal for connecting, sharing, publicizing and socializing. This is also what small business owners should be using social media for. Forbes reports that up to 60 percent of the Facebook advertising market is made up of small and mid-sized businesses (Zauner, 2012).
Perks of Facebook include:
- connecting and sharing,
- promoting businesses and
- launching campaigns for products.
Facebook enables experts in social media to expand their capabilities and reach people they would not otherwise have access to.
Many well-established brands use Twitter to stay on top of the mind their consumers. The trick is to stay relevant but not to crowd your followers screens.
According to The Journal of Business Strategy twitter users are:
- early adopters of new technologies;
- well-educated, with high profile careers and large salaries;
- receptive to relevant advertising and are likely to talk about products within the Twitter community to ‘‘spread the word’’; and
- very influential within their own community and potentially able to develop the profile of the brand through its endorsement when interacting with their followers.
LinkedIn is used more professionally. Usually to connect potential employees to companies. This can be a great avenue to post jobs if a small business it looking to hire. According to Edosomwam 80% of companies use it for recruiting. LinkedIn had more than 50 million registered users, spanning more than 200 countries and territories worldwide (Wikipedia, 2009).
YouTube is the world;s most popular online video community. YouTubers can discover, watch and share videos. In addition, this platform provides a place for people to connect, inform and inspire people across the globe (Edosomwam, 2011) . A perfect medium for a small business to showcase their work with the ability to reach the masses. Videos include, professional videos, user-generated content, video blogging and short original videos.
Suggestions for Social Media Campaigns
Kaplan and Haenlein offer 5 suggestions for starting a social media campaign. First, they state to be sure to choose social media platforms that will be beneficial to your product. Pick a site and an application that fits your needs. If there is not a platform specific enough, then you can create your own platform, assuming that you know how. They also say to make sure that you imply the same message on all your platforms . Make sure you are giving out the same specifics on each platform, to eliminate confusion. Kaplan and Haenlein also suggest integrating different tools and types of media into your campaign. Just simply because you are using Facebook doesn’t mean you can only use Facebook. Incorporating your blog or other tools will publicize your other sites and give you more coverage. Lastly, let employees access your social media.However, I would suggest doing this with discretion, everyone is not interested or capable of successfully running a social media campaign. Another way to do this is to highlight employees on social media. This shows a good company culture.
Along, with those suggestions Kaplan and Haenlein offer 5 more suggestions for being social on social media sites. You may think this sounds redundant or self-explanatory but it isn’t. On your social media accounts you should be 1. active, 2. interesting, 3. humble, 4. unprofessional and 5. honest. People will only consistently follow you if you are consistently giving them information or interacting with them. In addition to consistency, no one will follow you if you are boring. You can combat this by engaging your audience or remaining abreast of what is going on in the world. Kaplan and Haenlein, also say to listen to your customers ”Find out what they would like to hear; what they would like to talk about; what they might ﬁnd interesting, enjoyable, and valuable”. After that, you can develop and post content that ﬁts their expectations (Kaplan, 2010). Being humble includes, knowing your platform and not assuming that you know more about your topic than the entire world. Do not assume that your approach is better than everyone elses. Being unprofessional, does not mean incorrect grammar or offensive material. It simply means letting your hair down and making your brand/product seem approachable. There is no need to hire a writer specifically for your social media campaign, or hiring someone to do the graphics. Use people in house that possess those skills, you do not want to seem too polished. Honesty, should be a given. Always give correct information and do not leave out pertinent information for the benefit of the company. Information can be found on the internet and the likelihood of someone finding out you are falsifying information is high.
The ability to empower consumers and give them influence and enabling relationships to build between organizations and individuals is the new use of social media. Small business owners should use this to their advantage.With this also becomes the businesses ability to engage in conversations, show support and collaborate.
Paying for Social Media
Social media objectives often differ from traditional media objectives. Small businesses may emphasize engagement with consumers and consumer evangelism within social media. (Weinberg and Pehlivan, 2011). “In addition to making assessments about how much to spend in each avenue for directly delivering messages, investment decisions are also made to build social currency, and on motivating or facilitating–—but not forcing or demanding–—others to carry a brand-related message.social media spending, a marketer is focused on spending that same amount in a way that will result in others carrying or distributing their ‘own’ messages that are related to the marketer’s brand” (Weinberg and Pehlivan, 2011). others communicating brand-related messages; for example, (1) investing in social currency through conversation, sharing, supportiveness and helpfulness (2) finding opinion leaders or those with high influence to spread the message, and (3) employing promotions, contests, and the like to stimulate brand-related messages by others. Social media marketing is drastically different from traditional marketing and should be treated as such.
Possibility for Negativity
Recognizing that disgruntled customers can easily broadcast complaints online about poor service, companies like Pizza Hut, Comcast, and Southwest Airlines are hiring people to monitor the Twittersphere for negative comments and respond instantaneously (Fischer 2010). Observations conclude that marketers may use blogs to effectively increase product knowledge, and to build and reinforce a brand. A lot of businesses still do not have enough comprehensive information about the pros and cons of, for example, adopting Facebook as an extra communication channel
Everyone isn’t for Social Media
It is very difficult to track ROI (Return on Investment) with social media marketing. As a result some people are uncertain when using it or hiring people to manage it.
According to USA today, “about 61 percent of small businesses have seen no return on investment from their social-media activities, even as they have increased the time they spend on such efforts, ” Although the issue may derive from lack of a website and other basic marketing tactics.
Social media is neither a perfect substitute for traditional marketing, nor is it one-size-fits-all. Marketers can effectively use social media by taking their message directly to consumers and focusing on traditional objectives. Social Media is hard work, social networking is direct communication between the consumer and the company. Social Media does not allow user to manipulate comments, correct errors or other data for business benefit (Edosomwam, 2011).
Using Social Media is not an easy task and may require new ways of thinking, but the potential gains are far from being negligible. Social networks are useful for influencing and tracking consumer beliefs and attitudes toward a product or brand (Weinberg, 2011). And as a result are beneficial for small businesses looking to expand without spending a ton of money.