Ted Natt: Social Media Is Tool to Talk to Your Customers
Hiscox, a small business insurance agency, recently polled 304 small business owners about their social media use.
The survey found that only 12 percent describe social media promotion as a "must," and nearly half aren't using social media at all. But 50 percent said they couldn't live without word-of-mouth advertising.
The results came as somewhat of a shock to Lisa Barone, co-founder and chief branding officer at Outspoken Media Inc.
"Hmm, I guess social media, that place where people sign on to talk about your business, doesn't count as 'word-of-mouth marketing," Barone says in a recent Internet post. "Social media is about talking to your customers. You need to make time to do that."
Barone admits that the tools are new and can be intimidating until "you find your legs," but she believes the core of social media isn't much more than talking to people.
"While the education component acknowledges a natural learning curve, it is one that small business owners will need to overcome and tackle if they want to compete in the digital age," she says. "With more than 100 million users on LinkedIn, 500-plus million users on Facebook and 200-plus million users on Twitter, your audience is waiting for you to get involved.
"Your customers are on social media, which means you need to be, as well."
For those small business owners that did use social media, the survey found that 19 percent are using Facebook, 15 percent are using LinkedIn and 4 percent are using Twitter.
The businesses using social media also ranked the most important channels they used to grow and expand their business - 28 percent selected a company Facebook page, 18 percent selected a company page/group on LinkedIn, and 8 percent indicated a company blog had helped them the most.
All of which begs the question, why aren't more business owners hopping on the social media bandwagon?
Well, when asked how they felt about social media, 24 percent of the survey respondents said they simply didn't have time to participate, while another 14 percent admitted they don't know enough about it to get started.
Therein lies the rub - making time.
While speaking to a conference earlier this month, Barone was asked how she had time to engage in social media while running a business.
"The answer is both easy and incredibly difficult: I plan for it and I schedule it in my day," she says.
Barone asked other small business owners - via Twitter - how they were able to make it work, and their answers weren't too different.
n They schedule it in.
n They multitask, talking to people on social media while they watch television or perform other tasks.
n They use tools like Seesmic and Hootsuite to make their social interactions more productive.
Bottom line? Social media is now part of everything they do.
"Whether you realize it or not, social media is important to your small business," Barone says. "It gives you the opportunity to grow bigger wings by making your brand more accessible, more visible and more authoritative simply by showing up and engaging."
Have you integrated social media into your marketing mix?
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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