Is Social Media beneficial for small businesses?

There are still many sceptics when it comes to the use of social media as a business tool, and I will admit I still have my doubts on the subject as well. It cannot be denied that some niche businesses such as cafes located in a specifically tech savvy area could achieve success with the use of social media, and there is also the fact that large companies with significant marketing budgets have been able to show results, as is seen with Starbucks, Dell and even local New Zealand companies such as Orcon, who use twitter as a medium of communication and customer support. But can this be emulated by the more common, smaller business?

The 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report had some encouraging data for business marketers. And it can be argued through the data that not only large companies are seeing results from social media usage, infact, it turns out small business owners are seeing the greatest results from social media marketing.

Looking at the 2009, 2010, and 2011 Social Media reports, social media as a business tool has seen a rise from “ an uncertain strategy” to a “permanent fixture”and in the latest report is deemed “a primary tool in the savvy marketer’s toolkit.” – and no other type of business has benefited more than the small business.

A common problem for business owners is standing out in an increasingly competitive market place. Of the small business owners surveyed, 89.2% saw an increase in exposure through the use of social media. Other benefits, as reported by SocialMedia Examiner included:

  • The self-employed and small business owners were more likely to report new partnerships, with at least 59% noting a benefit.
  • Small businesses were twice as likely to find qualified leads than other types of businesses.
  • Forty-eight percent of self-employed and small business owners saw improved sales as a direct result of their social media efforts.
  • The self-employed (59%) and small business owners (58%) were more likely than others to see reductions in marketing costs when using social media marketing.
“We think of these social media tools as being in the realm of the sophisticated, multiplatform marketers like Coke and McDonald’s, but a lot of these supersmall businesses are gravitating toward them because they are accessible, free and very simple” – Greg Sterling, social media analyst

The important question is, how much time needs to be invested in social media in order for it to show these types of results. The answer is also encouraging: The survey shows that the average small business owner spent only 6 hours a week on social media, and was twice as likely to generate business leads as people investing less than 6 hours. Based on these numbers, it is possible to state that an investment of 6 hours a week on social media marketing would see significant returns in time investment.

I will concede that the company I work for also saw recent success in using social media as a business tool. The company required models and a photographer for promotional work, and decided to advertise the requirements solely through social media services such as Facebook and Twitter. There was an overwhelming response, and the models and photographer were sourced in a significantly shorter timeframe, and at much smaller cost than going through other more traditional routes such as using agents. The resulting promotional photographs can be seen on our website:

So, can we say that the use of social media could show results for the average, smaller business in NZ? I would say so… provided the right steps are taken in approaching social media as a business tool, and proper time investment is made towards obtaining results. If your small business has had any experience in proving or debunking the hype of social media, feel free to let me know in the comments section.

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