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 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.