Social Media For Small Business – An Overview

Is social media for small business really worth the time and effort? Does it deliver tangible results that matter such as sales, or at the very least enquiries?

It seems every conference and exhibition has a 30-minute slot allocated to a speaker promoting the benefits of social media. Their standard pitch tends to be posting regularly on social media will secure more content views and more followers. This, in turn, will ultimately lead to more engagement and more sales leads.

The above may be a valid process in theory but it assumes:

  • Sufficient potential customers are active on social media.
  • Interesting, quality content is available in enough quantity.
  • The business has the time and resources to publish and engage consistently.
  • The business can project an appropriate brand image/voice.

What’s The Plan?

Before allocating any effort to social media it is important to define objectives. Is it simply to raise awareness? Is it to help build backlinks to the website to help with SEO? Is it to generate enquiries? Or is it to build the business owners profile?

Whatever the objective may be it is important to define what success will look like and measure progress towards that goal. How much time and resources will be required and will that resource generate an appropriate return?

Is Anybody There?

For a local business with a limited potential customer base, the first step is to consider if potential customers are active on social media. If they are active what is their preferred channel? Is it Facebook (most likely), Twitter, Instagram or something else?

In a B2B environment, it may be LinkedIn. If the product or service is aimed at those in their early teens it may be Snapchat. If the product or service is best promoted visually then Pinterest may be best. The challenge is to choose the most appropriate channel and not to spread effort too thinly.

Social Media Content

To generate any reasonable return on social media activity requires content. That content needs to be of value to the target customer base, engaging and of high quality. The content itself can take many different forms.

As discussed elsewhere on this blog content is important to any small business marketing process. It is the fuel for social media activity. The social media plan must dovetail with the content plan to avoid duplicating effort.

Time And Resources

The reality of the situation became clear to me recently when an old business contact became active on Twitter. It was easy to spot the enthusiasm in her early tweets (and yes, she did mention that social media course she had attended!). A minimum of a tweet per day appeared in my feed during the first week.

Fourteen weeks later the tweet rate has dropped to less than one every other week with less than 50 tweets delivered in total. She has secured only 38 followers in that time. Perhaps she jumped in without a plan. Or she may have struggled for content. There are many abandoned social media accounts across the web. The warnings are clear, without a plan and solid commitment it may be best to avoid social media. It may be possible to generate a better return elsewhere.

Voice

Voice is difficult to explain or quantify. The content on some social media accounts just feels wrong. It may be dry and lacking any personality. It may not be engaging in any way.

Content published on social media needs to be social (the clue is in the name). It needs to have some humanity and needs to engage. Both text and images can improve engagement but social media success depends to an extent on the personality of who writes the content.

Organic Reach vs Paid

Finally, it is important to appreciate that organic reach on social media channels is decreasing. This means content (posts) will not be displayed on followers News Feeds as often as they once were.

A paid model rather than an organic model may be more appropriate. That mean sponsoring (paying for distribution) of content. In general, the costs of sponsoring content are not significant.

In conclusion, social media can be effective for some small businesses and a complete waste of time and resources for others. Take time to consider the issues, measure the right outcomes and beware of false expectations.

Google+ Local Vs Google My Business

Have you heard about Google my Business and are you worried about what impact it may have on your existing Google+ Local listing? In short, there is no major need for concern but if you want to know more about Google my business vs Google + Local and the advantages (and disadvantages) of one over the other then read on.

The history behind the changes of Google places to Google+ local to Google my business is long and complex. If you want the detail it is available in this excellent post from WrightIMC so I don’t intend to cover it here. All I cover are the key features of Google my business and how it differs from Google+ Local.

For any business with a local customer base Google My Business is a powerful promotional tool. You can read more about its benefits here but in summary it offers:

– A presence on Page 1 Google (location based).

– A products and services showcase.

– Increased credibility.

Often a small local business can dispense with the need for a business website altogether. All they need is a Google My Business page.

The major change is to the dashboard. It is now much easier to update the primary company contact information. The addition of an Insight, Reviews, Analytics, You Tube and Adwords box delivers all key data in one place.

The new Insights box allows you to track engagement with your Google My Business page by visibility, engagement and audience in some detail. However, the reviews box is perhaps even more powerful for any business with a local customer base. Reviews and testimonials are a powerful promotional tool when trying to distinguish a business from the competition in a crowded marketplace.

The reviews box shows you your Google reviews and where other reviews for your business have originated from around the web. The analytics show the number of reviews and (crucially) the average rating on Google. Potential customers may quickly use this rating to check your business against the competition in the 7 pack. It is also thought to influence Google on their decision to display your listing (or not)

The other boxes are optional to an extent. If enabled, the key stats from the Google Analytics account attached to your website will display in the analytics box. The stats from your You Tube account, if enabled, will show in the next box, followed by the key stats from the Adwords account associated with your website, if you have one.

The move to Google Your Business then has simply tidied up some of the long standing mess associated with the move from Google Places to Google+ local and delivered a more user friendly dashboard. The long standing benefits of a Google My Business account to small business with a local customer base remains unchanged.