As we have discovered in previous blog postings, businesses are readily adopting social media to keep up with rat race and broaden their marketing horizons. The use of social media seems like an ideal option for small businesses who have low budgets for advertising and marketing, and a big need to create new connections, but it seems that in reality, small businesses are the ones who are unable reap the rewards of social media participation, compared to larger businesses.
So what’s this all about?
We will start by looking at how small businesses and non-profits use social media in the first place.
As mentioned above, the use of social media seems ideal for small businesses with low budgets for their marketing and advertising needs – and this is true. The ways in which they choose to use social media however, depend on the purpose of their social media presence and the type of business they have.
For example, a photographer who is newly in business who is trying to promote their brand and network through social media will likely have a strong presence on Instagram (to easily share photos), as well as Facebook (to share photos and have a business page to easily communicate with potential clients), and they also would likely have a LinkedIn profile (to connect with other professionals and potential employers). This use of social media reflects the type of business being promoted, as well as the purpose of their social media presence.
Alternatively, a non-profit organisation such as a free food van for those in need would have a slightly different social media presence. This type of organisation would likely have a strong Facebook presence (to share what the cause is about, share information, photos and to communicate with people interested in the cause), as well as a Twitter account (to share locations for the food van or brief updates on fundraising efforts), they may also have a LinkedIn profile (for recruitment), and they may also have a YouTube account (for promoting awareness of the food van, or for promotion/sharing footage of fundraising events).
Also, a business who is using a social media platform to engage with and sell to other businesses, opposed to businesses who are aiming to engage with consumers or potential consumers, will use social media differently. Some differences include the language used, for example, industry jargon and “buzzwords” are accepted in B2B online communications, but B2C interactions generally require simpler language. Another difference is in the way interactions are perceived, for example, followers of B2B social media pages bear more significance than followers of B2C social media pages, as business have a more serious interest in gaining information or forming relationships by following other businesses, than consumers following businesses they may actually never deal with.
The ways in which social media is utilised can vary depending on who’s using it, as well as the success of social media use can depend on who’s using it.
To demonstrate this point we might look at the difference in the way small businesses and large businesses use social media. Small businesses will generally have a current employee, or perhaps even the business owner, as the admin for various social media pages, while simultaneously still working within the business in their original role. Large businesses however, can afford to employ somebody whose job is specifically to manage the organisations online presence… You can see how this could make a big difference in how successful a business’s efforts maintaining a social media presence would be. If you don’t have the time, and you need to spend time on other things, you are likely not going to be able to put in the kind of research or online efforts that will see returns to the business. It’s a bit of a catch 22 for small business trying to use social media for leverage, really.
One way that businesses can amplify their online presence is by jumping on board with mobile social media. This can either be in the form of a mobile friendly website (where your normal website can change layout and format to easily be used on a mobile device), or in the form of a mobile application or ‘app’. Both of these types of mobile social media offer great benefit to organisations who utilise them. Harnessing the use of mobile technology for businesses marketing, and considering the constancy of mobile technology in everyone’s day-to-day lives in the modern age, means consumers and potential consumers can be reached anywhere, at any time. This is the major difference between mobile social media and traditional social media, and will play an important role in the success of those who do and do not choose to use it.
But at the end of the day, some businesses choose not to join the social media game altogether. Are there any fair reasons for this? I suppose some risks to business include the possibility of customer backlash, or having negative feedback shared online which could tarnish the name of the business and affect offline business also. Or perhaps some smaller businesses fear trying and failing, as there are so many other businesses out there vying for social media user’s attention.
Well, one thing is for sure, you’ve gotta be in it to win it! And the businesses and non-profits who have chosen to participate on social media are a step ahead of those who are yet to adopt the new ways of networking and marketing in the business world.