We wanted to know how many small businesses in the United States stay active on social media, and whether their social activity has a positive effect on their reputations. Radius tracks the online activity for all small and midsize businesses in the United States, so we can access very current snapshots of the small-business landscape—as well as the trends that move through it.
One of the business indicators that our technology evaluates is social-media activity, such as whether or not a business has a website or maintains an active Twitter handle. We used Radius data to build a snapshot of the social-media presence for small businesses across the country, and we compared their social presence to their review ratings.
Our findings? Small businesses are not taking advantage of the benefits of social media.
Seventy-five percent of the businesses that you can find on social review sites have no reviews. That means that even if you’ve done nothing to bring your brand online, it likely already is. The businesses that maintain active Twitter and Facebook pages are also more likely to have positive review ratings of three or four stars. A lot of business owners avoid social media because it’s time consuming, but many small businesses see rapid increases in sales thanks to their social presence. Here are four ways to use social media to your advantage:
Play up your authenticity. At big businesses, marketing agencies control social media. Silicon Valley titan Salesforce.com, for example, builds an entire “social media control center” to man the Twitter and Facebook feeds during its annual conference, Dreamforce. The distance between the people that run Salesforce.com and the people that interact with the brand online is much farther than the distance between a small-business owner and his or her customers on social media. Use that to your advantage. Put your face and your personality behind your social channels. You can offer clients a custom experience they won’t get at a big company—both online and offline.
Engage with fans and followers one-on-one as often as possible. Authenticity will get you fans and followers, and one-on-one engagements will keep them interested in your brand. You can virtually communicate with loyal customers in between their visits to your storefronts or websites. Get your name in front of them even when they aren’t thinking about you.
Post as often as possible. Twitter and Facebook make it very easy to post a lot of content. Share thoughts that reflect your personality and brand, share articles that relate to your business, and share updates about your offerings.
Schedule posts ahead of time. Most small businesses don’t have dedicated resources just for social media, so someone who has a million other jobs also ends up owning the social media presence. Make life a little easier by finding a Twitter scheduling app, such as Buffer, HootSuite, or Sprout Social that allows you to schedule out a number of social-media updates all at once. If you have a special offering that you want to promote, pre-crafting promotion allows you to be thoughtful about how you position your offering, makes sure you don’t forget to post about it, and keeps you in front of your social-media audience even when you’re in a meeting or behind the counter.
Social media doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all package for small businesses, and the types of social activity in which you partake depend on your industry and products or services. Find out what other successful companies in your space are doing, and borrow from them.
Small businesses have a lot of room to stand out by developing social-media strategies. If you don’t have one already, you can still get a head start.