A research about the current situation of the SME (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises) recently published by Sage shows that more than 73% of Spanish small businesses are not yet in any social network. This contrasts dramatically with the time that consumers (and therefore potential customers) engage in social media. As an example, the number of monthly minutes consumed in Facebook has doubled.
So what’s the reason for this disagreement? Surely there is no single explanation, but I tend to think that the most important is the lack of knowledge about the real possibilities that an effective use of social networks can bring to a small business.
Knowing the competition, knowing your customers
If we accept that information is power, then it is easy to understand for any SME what the first real benefit of being in social networks is. First, it lets you know what is being live activity in the context of your competitors, suppliers, customers, etc. Many businesses are taking their first steps in social networks and are starting to get results. So it looks reasonable to follow their activities on Facebook or Twitter, don’t you think so? You will be able to see what your competition is doing and adjust your offer to the market. On the other hand, you will have the opportunity to learn from what others are doing.
Show your product and brand to the public
Let's be reasonable: if our potential customers are on social networks, our product and our brand must also be there. You can start looking for a display effect to finally end up becoming a new sales or customer care channel. If your competitors are already there, then there is no excuse. If not, we should remember that "the early bird catches the worm".
Networking and new business opportunities
Another direct benefit that can provide an active presence in social media is networking. According to the study cited above, the small entrepreneur is lonely and somewhat abandoned to their fate. However, social networks can provide opportunities for contact with other entrepreneurs and, more importantly, with a proper monitoring of the network, he can identify potential business opportunities. Those companies that sell products or offer solutions for small niche markets are also more likely to succeed due to the unprecedented targeting opportunities that social networks offer.
Referral Marketing vs. Traditional Advertising
Nobody better than a small business owner understands what is called "referral marketing". Most new customers that an SME receive come through a recommendation. Not surprisingly, over 70% of consumers trust more the recommendation of a friend or acquaintance than conventional advertising. In this context, the world of social networking is clearly gaining ground. First because they are the natural environment of the recommendations for a very important part of today's consumers. Second, because they are a viable and affordable alternative to the traditionaly huge communication budgets.
In the current economic situation most SMEs have serious difficulties to continue investing in training. Well, the use of Social Media can be a very interesting development alternative. Access to knowledge shared by opinion leaders and prominent people from academia and business is a wonderful complementary way for the staff development.
Therefore, now more tan ever Eric Qualmann (Socialnomics) is absolutely right: “As a result, we no longer have a choice on whether we do social media; the question is how well we do it”.
(Versión en español, aquí)