How Effective Is Social Media In Marketing A Small Business?
Does having some friends, connections or followers on your social network translate into more customers for your small business? Having a couple hundreds of friends, connections or followers in your social networks does not necessarily mean that you can leverage them for the benefit of your business.
Furthermore, whilst it is true that brands are unique and therefore require unique approaches to marketing, the dynamics that affect marketing for small businesses are not directly comparable to those of a large corporations primary due to large differences in marketing budgets.
It is rare to find small businesses actively running a paid marketing campaign on social media. Often the small businesses that advertise on social media rely heavily on their personal connections acquired on that particular social network. From my observation, these do not seem to go very far and often do not permeate beyond the marketer's personal network.
Your Buddies Are Usually Not Your Clients
One of the reasons why relying on your personal networks to market your business falls short is because most of your buddies are not usually your clients. At least not in a sustainable way. Your close friends and relatives my have an interest in what you are doing but more often than not, depending on the nature of your business, do not obtain goods and services from it.
Therefore, even if a lot of people show interest in your product or service offering and give you a lot of likes on social media, they do not necessarily represent your customer base. In fact they give false hope to you as a business owner.
The only way your personal friends can increase value in your social circles is if they can produce a viral effect by sharing and liking your product or service until strangers identify with your offering in large enough numbers.
Marketing On Social Media Can Be Costly And Lengthy
Whilst the viral effect does happen, it does so on rare occasions when an idea is simply irresistible and spreads like wildfire. Apart from the viral effect, the next best thing becomes making use of paid advertising on social media in order to reach a reasonable critical mass of an audience, which is an expensive proposition for most small businesses.
In order to successfully market with paid advertising on social media, you have to have a sufficient budget set aside to pay for reaching more people. The more people you have to reach the bigger your budget has to be. This is easily said and done for a corporation, but not so easy for a small business.
Furthermore, you cannot just anticipate to launch a once-off marketing campaign and then sit back to enjoy the outcome. Marketing on social media is significantly more involved than putting up a poster in a shopping complex. Once a campaign has been launched, it has to be continuously tweaked and adjusted depending on feedback from observations and this has to be carried out over several months to be effective.
People Are Seeking For A Connection
Marketing on social media is more complicated than conventional forms of marketing because the audience on social media is seeking to make a connection with the brand from which they will patronage.
People do not simply want to purchase something, they want to relate and connect with the brand. This can be very hard to achieve and only comes with experience to get right. As a small business, your marketing message has to resonate with your audience in order to get them to participate in a social interaction with your brand.
People Hardly Give Previously Unknown Brands A Chance
Being a small business is being in a precarious position when it comes to marketing on social media because of lack of brand recognition. My observation has been that people on social media will be quick to engage with brands they have encountered before on the ground. As a small business, it is a challenge to get people to identify with your brand when they have never heard of it before. Often, people will show interest in your business because they know you as an owner and not because they have a genuine interest in the offering.
I often take time to look at the number of likes and comments that huge brands with large marketing budgets get for their promoted posts on Facebook. In my view, the level of interaction they receive is so minuscule relative to infotainment posts that get thousands of views and likes more in comparison. This is an indication of how much worse it would be for a small business without any brand recognition.
You Are Competing With Infotainment
Let's face it, social media is mostly that- social. Most people go to their social media websites to get their fix of information which is for the most part entertainment and for others it is informative about their areas of interest.
As a small business taking your marketing campaign to the social networks, your are competing with all these other sources of information for the attention of your target audience in order to gain brand recognition.
It is no secret that the attention span on these social platforms is fleeting. Individuals on social media quickly scan and scroll through content in order to get their daily fix. And unless you are captivating enough or compelling enough, your marketing efforts will not bear any fruit.
You Are Not “Selling” But Building Relationships
It is easy to forget that “selling” on social media is counter-productive. None of us like having products and price lists shoved in our faces. So instead of selling on social media, rather focus on building relationships and building brand awareness.
It is also important to remember that you are collecting likes which do not necessarily translate into clients. A small fraction of these likes might one day turn into customers- that is what you should be aiming for when you carry out a marketing campaign on social media.
How Effective Is It For Small Business
Due to budgetary constraints and little brand recognition, marketing on social media should not be seen as a quick fix to the difficult task of finding clients for small businesses. It would be more advantageous to approach marketing on social media as a long-term secondary strategy.
I recommend using direct marketing approaches that produce more direct leads such as advertising with Google Adwords and other offline techniques to promote a small business. These other approaches should prove to be better investment of time and money in the short-term. Social media marketing should then be used in conjunction with these approaches but with a long-term view.