With millions of small businesses nationwide competing for consumers' attentions with each other and larger competitors as well, many are now trying to increase their footprint in potential customers' minds by trying to expand their presence on social media sites.
A recent survey of small business owners by the office supply giant Staples found that independent companies would value having a large amount of people who Like them on Facebook ahead of receiving a celebrity endorsement or an ad for their company that runs during the Super Bowl. And while four in every 10 owners surveyed said they believe their use of social media channels of any type has certainly helped their businesses to grow, more than half also said they consider themselves to be novices with using these sites, or don't quite know how the use of them can help their businesses.
Despite that fact, 61 percent of all small businesses polled said they used at least one social media platform, the report said. Facebook and LinkedIn were the most frequently used, with Twitter lagging not far behind. When it comes to the visions small business owners had for their social media expansion, half said they wanted to use the platforms to better engage customers, while another 46 percent said they wanted to increase sales, and 44 percent said they hoped to create greater brand awareness for their companies.
Ways in which social media can help small businesses
One reason that companies might want to increase their presence on social media sites of all types is so that they can better deal with their customers, both current and prospective, in a way that feels more personal. In the past, it might have been common for companies to take out newspaper or local radio ads, for instance, but people these days might prefer the ability to interact with businesses when hearing about new deals or offers that might be available.
For this reason, establishing a presence on as many social media platforms, and regularly maintaining them, could be vital. The more companies do to engage their customer base through these, the better chance they will have of connecting. Through these channels, they can not only solicit feedback from customers about certain services or products they're offering for the first time, but also offer exclusive deals and other content that would not be available to those who don't follow on Twitter or Like on Facebook. This might serve to not only make people who are currently doing so feel better about their interactions, but also potentially help them encourage those that aren't signed up to do so in order to take advantage of the discounts and other offerings listed on these social media accounts.
It can also be important for small business owners to try to make their social media accounts as accessible and enjoyable as possible. While many companies may present a somewhat bland face to the world through their social media sites, those that are a bit livelier and engaging might help to more successfully attract new users and increase not only their online following, but also potentially help their businesses to grow as well, once those online followers become real-world customers.
Of course, many small business owners may find that their efforts to focus on expanding their online presence through social media is at least somewhat costly, if not in terms of actual dollars, then in terms of man-hours devoted to it. As such, implementing these programs successfully isn't always easy. The same is true of affording small business insurance policies that many need to stay afloat, including worker's compensation and liability insurance.