While social media adoption is on the rise, many small business-to-business companies still view it as a marketing vehicle reserved for large consumer brands or too vast a medium to be tackled effectively by a small entity. A recent study by the Center for Media Research and the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business looked at the relationship between social media and small businesses and found that the technology adoption rates in the U.S. have doubled in the past year from 12 to 24 percent and that one in five small business owners are integrating social media into their business processes.
With economic uncertainty causing executives to tighten
marketing budgets, social media can be a highly effective and cost friendly
marketing tactic and customer service tool used by all businesses. In fact, 45% of
the small businesses surveyed in the
At Articulate Communications we encourage clients to embrace social media as a fully integrated component of their strategic communications program. If social media is adopted with a targeted, strategic approach aimed at delivering the right message, to the right audience and the right time, a small business-to-business company can see immediate return. Here’s how:
· Low cost – It’s free to join LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Social media is filled with inexpensive or free tools that marketers and public relations practitioners can use to engage with key constituents, energize the client user-base and promote product and corporate news. The manpower required to write 140 character Tweets or post a question to a LinkedIn group are minimal – even on a small business budget.
· Improve customer service and encourage word-of-mouth referrals -- Happy, vocal customers are always an effective sales tool. By cultivating these relationships online and establishing a two-way dialogue with customers, businesses can shrink the emotional distance between the company and the consumer. By actively listening, observing and participating in social networks, companies can not only use social tools to sell directly to consumers but to help consumers sell to each other by turning their most active customers into advocates and encouraging them to take action i.e., product reviews, shared stories, general word-of-mouth activity.
· Engagement with target journalists and analysts – Journalists and industry analysts who follow your company are probably entrenched in social media – in fact, most media outlets today feature blogs penned by beat reporters and columnists. Companies can gain valuable insight into their market and competition through monitoring what journalist and analysts are saying. Further, PR practitioners are given a direct view into the story development process. Often, journalists will use social media tools like Twitter to solicit expert commentary and secure interview subjects.
In today’s 24-hour news cycle, journalists don’t have time to seek, schedule and then wait for interviews to happen. They need real-time sound bytes and commentary when news breaks and are increasingly turning to blogs and micro-blogging sites to gathering this information. For this reason, it’s important for companies to realize the importance of establishing a corporate blog as a primary thought-leadership tool, and for PR counsel to use the blog to support media outreach efforts and press release activity.
· Dissemination of news and events – Want to distribute a new white paper? Educate users on a new product upgrade? Tout new Web content? Drive Webinar attendance? For announcements that might not warrant a traditional press release, social networks offer a venue to promote corporate and marketing activity and distribute information users crave.
By embracing social media, companies can meet their near and long-term business goals by keeping costs low and focusing on where social media tools and tactics can add the most value.