It’s National Small Business Week, a time for everyone to celebrate the local mom-and-pops and startups that are integral to both the local and nationwide economy. Most of these tiny powerhouses of economic development have jumped on the technology bandwagon to market products and services and get their names out to the public. One important area that these businesses may not be utilizing effectively, though, is social media.
According to a study by Deluxe Corp., 66 percent of the 500 respondents have a company website, and 45 percent have a business Facebook page. This is a step in the right direction at least, because in the modern connected world, if customers can’t find out about your store or products online, you may get overlooked.
Although to most small businesses, word-of-mouth is always the best kind of free publicity, social media now comes in at a close second. For such smaller businesses, social media may not be 100 percent “free,” but it’s certainly less costly than traditional advertising and marketing. Using Facebook and other social media platforms helps small businesses take that word-of-mouth message even further by sending it out to hundreds or thousands of people at once. It was quite surprising to learn that despite the ease of usage of social media, 70 percent of these small businesses say they spend less than one hour per week “maintaining their online presence,” and of those, 51 percent update their social media message only once per month.
Tim Carroll, vice president of small business engagement at Deluxe, says that though small businesses do get attention for offering exceptional products and providing phenomenal customer service, they don’t follow up with the right kind of social media message:
“What they are not always doing is preparing for when buzz about them actually happens. Most customers, after hearing about a business through word of mouth, will search for it online, visit its website, look at its social media pages and read reviews about it. Those small businesses with a strong and well maintained online presence can capture this behavior and convert it into lasting relationships.
“It can take just one day – one influential person to notice – to make a small business a hit, so make sure your online presence is ready to go.”
In an interview with Business Insider, entrepreneur, author and former Apple Evangelist Guy Kawasaki agrees and adds that small companies should cultivate a brand online that appeals to their target customer:
For example, if you own a restaurant, you should post content that would appeal to foodies so that you establish your brand as knowledgeable about food. If a brand is knowledgeable about food, it's reasonable to assume it makes good food.
Kawasaki feels that a big mistake that small businesses are making is not taking social media and their online presence seriously and not spending enough time to properly promote via these channels:
Almost every company is not posting as much as they should. Many are believing "expert" advice that the optimal number of posts on each platform is one per day. This is the stupidest thing I've heard. Imagine if NPR, CNN, ESPN, or the BBC did one report per day — and never repeated it. Companies are afraid of a vocal minuscule minority complaining about too many posts and repeated posts.
That being said, Kawasaki believes that it’s also not how often you post, but the quality of what you post that matters most. He believes that if a small business has a good story to share, it can make the biggest buzz. The story of your company or a noteworthy tale about a customer’s experience can be shared and shared again via social media and will create lots of interest in your business or products.