Nearly six out of ten small businesses (59 percent) that now use social media say it provides value to their business, and most small businesses (52 percent) say having a social media presence is important for companies, according to a national poll of 500 small business owners or managers commissioned by EMPLOYERS. However, just 16 percent of small businesses use social media, the Small Business Opinion Poll finds.
Applying that percentage to the 29.7 million small businesses in the United States (Small Business Administration figures), EMPLOYERS extrapolates that some 4.75 million US small businesses now use social media.
Social-media advocates extol the business-development benefits of social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Small businesses that have dipped their toes in social-media waters tend to agree with that assessment:
- 49 percent of those with a social media presence say it has produced advocates for their business.
- 65 percent of those with a social media presence say they actively use it to promote their businesses.
Social media is also an effective channel for those who want to reach small businesses. For example, 26 percent of small businesses (the equivalent of 7.7 million) say they are likely to use social media channels to find information on workers' compensation insurance.
Those nearly 8 million businesses represent a significant business opportunity for insurance providers, according to EMPLOYERS (itself a provider of workers comp insurance).
The firm offers eight valuable tips to consider when using social media channels:
- Be a good listener: Once you sift through the social media noise and find the kinds of people with whom you wish to engage, take the time to hear what's being said before jumping in.
- Think of social media as a conversation rather than a marketing vehicle: In many respects, social media is like a giant room with millions of people in it, talking about thousands of subjects. Your task is to locate the part of the conversation that matters to you and find a way to participate. And, just like a conversation in the real world, if you bully your way in and try to dominate, people will just turn away.
- Consider your objectives: Whether you want to improve awareness of your brand, listen for customer comments about your business, or track what your competitors are up to, it's important to establish your objectives and focus on them. Otherwise, social media can be incredibly time-consuming.
- Join in: You may as well participate, because the conversation goes on whether you choose to take part or not. By participating, you get to tell your part of the story.
- Inform rather than "me-form": When you encounter a post, or series of posts, that you can add value to, do it. But you would do well to think in terms of contributing to the conversation rather than making a blunt sales pitch.
- Understand your target audiences: Knowing the needs and engagement-style of the people you want to connect with will give you a much better chance of having a positive experience with the conversations you join.
- Practice makes perfect: Refining your social media efforts by testing different ways to improve your engagement with agents and small business owners is a smart approach. Social media is definitely not a one-size-fits-all environment. Find what works best for you.
- Work smart: By using free tools like HootSuite and Google Alerts, you can set up a fairly sophisticated Internet listening program at virtually no cost.
What else would you add?
Photo credit: jimblodget