According to a recent survey by eMarketer, “just 24 percent of small businesses and 33 percent of medium-size businesses have integrated social media in a structured way for their businesses.”While that percentage seems too low to me, a different survey showed that those small business that do use social media to market their business find it to be very effective. According to the Social Media Examiner, for those small businesses that do use social media,
- “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.
- 48% 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.”
The real issue, according to the Examiner report, was time; do you use your social medias time effectively, or not?
So the fact is, for all of us generally, but for the small businessperson in particular, social media is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it offers a vast sea of possibilities and people to meet; people and opportunities you otherwise would not meet and have in the physical, real, non--nonvirtual world. But on the other hand, it is far too easy for many people to get lost in that vast social media sea, or to spend too much time there because being at sea can be more fun than working. You can even drown in this sea if you end up wasting your time, marketing efforts, energy, and precious capital chasing leads that never materialize.
Let me suggest that the best way to think about this thing called social media is as a conversation. As we all know, people (including your customers and would-be customers) are already online, on social media sites, having conversations about everything imaginable. They are talking about your industry, your products, your competitors, maybe even your business. There are strangers having these conversations, but so are your clients, associates, colleagues, friends, and competitors.
The question then is: Are you going to be part of these conversations, or not?
Now, do you have to become part of this social media revolution? Does your business really need a Facebook business page? Of course not. You can survive just fine without jumping in. But that said, does it not make a little sense to join the conversation and see where it leads? What about using social media to build your brand, prospect, and make more sales?
As the reports above indicate, those small businesses that do tap the power of social media are finding that, when done correctly, it can lead to new opportunities. In fact, it should.
How are you harnessing the power of social media? Tell us in the comments below!