The Value of Social Media to SMEs

What is the value of social media to small businesses?

Sokratis Papafloratos, Yell’s head of social products, explains…

In today’s digital world of online social circles it’s hard to imagine any business not joining the universal scramble for a virtual soapbox. Yet many small businesses still don’t see how they can benefit from social media.  Not everyone has had their eyes opened by the massive opportunities for engagement and new business that tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and even our very own Reviews– along with the various blogging platforms present.


Three reasons why small businesses should consider social media

1. Word of mouth is the most powerful force of discovery, and social media is nothing more than word of mouth amplified


2. As a business owner you can be guaranteed a large portion of your customers – and potential customers - are likely to spend a lot of time on social sites. Here is an opportunity for you to engage with a large audience and present the ‘human’ side of your business.


3.Most areas of social media require the investment of time and not money, making it a level playing field to be noticed.orsesmouth is easy for people to use and is accessible. Unlike face to face or telephone communications there is no embarrassment in asking questions, and so it is a great way to encourage those in need to seek advice and support. I enjoy the day to day challenge of providing advice and find it very rewarding.”


What is the starting point?
The first very important step is to get an online presence, your ‘store front’. Once you have a website (or even a blog) created then you are ready to get started with social media. Think of social media as a party, a big conversation and one that you can be part of. Link your online presence (or website) from all sites you engage in back to one common place – which would be your website - or store front. So for example all those links on your Twitter and Facebook profile should take people to one place.


The costs of getting a website up and running have come down dramatically recently and small businesses have a number of options available, including this one from Yell. Whichever solution you choose, make sure you can easily and cheaply make changes to your site as you have more content and news to share.


Defining a strategy
Strategy is a heavy and often very expensive word. First of all make sure you have your website done. Once you have a business website then your next step is to spend time on a number of social sites. Spend some time listening, before you start talking and don’t forget that business owners are consumers too, so look at how other businesses are doing it. Educate yourself on social media, and then decide what you want. Jump in, experiment and learn. These are the questions you should be asking yourself:


-    How much time can you invest?
-    Do you have the resources to invest in social media (for example an employee)?
-    What are your business objectives? Are you looking to make more direct sales, solicit   feedback or raise awareness?


Common mistakes small business owners make when embarking into social media for the first time

Some small business owners don’t spend enough time familiarising themselves with the unwritten rules that often exist on social/community sites. For example, they will go to Twitter and update it but only to advertise their business and not add any additional value. Patience is very important as social media is about building relationships, and this takes time. These relationships build up slowly and so the more time you invest the more rewards you’ll reap.

The relevance of blogging

You should consider whether you have the resources to dedicate to blogging, before starting. A dead blog - or one that isn’t maintained - is counter productive. Commit to finding time to put relevant and engaging content together for your blog. Having a blog gives you the chance to present the human side of your business and differentiate yourself from your competitors. 

Content is crucial when it comes to your business being discovered on the web. Your business has a higher chance of being found by search engines through rich, good content. The use of images and video when creating your content also to helps keep it rich – and is ideal for search engine optimisation. A blog can be a fantastic platform to easily create excellent content. 

Which social media sites and tools are right for my business?
Start with the big ones, Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, Flickr Reviews

Measuring the effectiveness of my social media
Monitor all your feedback. Look at the stats on your website and see which social media sites are sending traffic to you. From this you’ll be able to analyse the results of your activities, tweak and improve them. Remember there’s nothing with asking for feedback and get your customers to engage with the sites you have a presence on.

Golden rules for businesses using social media
Be genuine, truthful and transparent. The great thing about social media is that word of mouth spreads very quickly. Never impersonate, just be yourself and represent your business.

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