What Can Social Media Do For Businesses

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We all hear that social media can drive traffic to our websites, can build brand awareness, generate free press coverage, increase conversions – all except perhaps make us a cup of tea in the mornings! And yes, it can. However, where is the proof? How do we know that businesses that use social media grow twice as fast as those who don’t use it?

I attended an information and networking event last week, organised by ACT Ireland Wales and Carlow Enterprise Board. ACT (Advanced Communication Technologies) provided some of their findings from their research and you may indeed find it interesting as well as useful for your own business planning.

The ACT project exists to help SMEs across West Wales and South-East Ireland to better understand social media and to take advantage of the opportunities it offers for business growth.

ACT discovered that many SMEs believe they do not have the sufficient skills to use the social media platforms effectively and ACT is investing to provide training to a number of SMEs.

For those SMEs that are using social media effectively, their businesses are growing twice as fast as those not using social media!  This surely proves that social media is a necessary requirement now for all businesses and as ACT is funding training, it is clear that it is viewed as such by many.

Some of their research findings are interesting: many of the businesses surveyed use the social media tools as a means of providing information rather than an active sales avenue. Facebook is the most commonly used network followed by Linked In (Ireland) and Twitter (Wales).  The average annual spends were less than €5,000/£5,000 with average allocation in time being 3 hours per day.   The research found that half of all businesses surveyed were considered unsuccessful in using social media effectively for their businesses.

According to a survey conducted by the Social Media Examiner in April 2012

  • 83% of marketers indicate that social media is important for their business.
  • The top 3 benefits are generating more business exposure, increasing traffic to website and providing marketplace insight.
  • Only 30% of businesses are outsourcing their social media marketing.

According to 500 businesses surveyed in Autumn 2012

  • One third would like to spend less time on social media to focus on other activities (ie struggling with time)
  • The most time consuming tasks are finding the right content and posting it to the social networking site.
  • Most of the SMEs focus on Facebook. 90% use facebook. 70% use twitter.
  • 71% of businesses are not using Pinterest yet! 50% are not using Linked In.
  • Yet in another survey of 300 Welsh businesses, only 39% use Facebook as a business tool.

A social media strategy is imperative for all businesses but particularly for those who have few staff and don’t have a person responsible to manage the social media marketing.  It seems as though some platforms are forgotten about or updated haphazardly.  The social media strategy should interlink with an offline marketing plan rather than they being two separate entities.

Editorial calendars will help to focus a business on the content it is producing and ensure that “writer’s block” does not occur.

How To Create Your Social Media Strategy (summarised from the ACT Project)

  1. Decide on your goals. Observe the market.
  2. Decide which social media platform is most suitable for your business. It is not necessary to use every single tool.
  3. Spend time deciding on the right content to suit your target market. Encourage potential customers to engage and interact.
  4. Find influencers (those who are influential and create trends) and connect with them.
  5. Integrate your social media platforms to your website so they cross connect and promote each other.
  6. Develop a sense of community by listening to followers, responding to feedback (negative and positive).
  7. Ensure your contact information and SEO is up to date.
  8. Cross Platform Promotion methods such as using hootsuite or buffer can  help.
  9. Use social media as a form of customer service while also informing, educating and entertaining consumers.
  10. Measure your success, evaluate and plan again.

A Company’s social media strategy should also include details on how to deal with the following:

  • Requirement of consent e.g. using photos
  • Ex-employees still having access to platforms
  • Privacy laws
  • How to respond to negative comments about the company.

What I took from the document as their main messages:

  • SMEs do benefit from using social media but need training in using it effectively.
  • SMEs are struggling with time. They see the social media channels as being free yet many are devoting three hours a day to their social media. 3 hours a day does sound a lot for a small business whereas it would be a reasonable time spend for a medium business. Realistically – a blog post should take 60-90 minutes, then add on 45 minutes for pinning, linking, sharing, tweeting, responding, scheduling etc.  Posting twice a week means that is 4 hours per week. 15 minutes spent every 3 hours on checking the various channels should be sufficient for many small businesses for the rest of the week = 45 x 5 = 4 hours.  Add in spending an hour on a tweetchat twice a week = 10 hours a week or 2 hours per day.
  • There are a number of different tools out there and most businesses seem to be using Facebook, seeing it as being the most influential. Or perhaps it is because they have personal profiles on Facebook and hence are accustomed to using it.  It is important that they step outside the box and discover new tools that would serve them well e.g Pinterest for tourism and fashion businesses.
  • There was very little mention of businesses blogging – yet I see this as the core of any social media strategy.
  • ACT recognises the importance of SMEs evaluating their use of social media in planning new strategies and it does seem as though many businesses are failing to plan. Instead they are using the tools without any real focus or goal in mind.  Measurement is key, as is evaluating your performance and moving forward.
In other news ……
It has been a really busy week and I’m delighted to announce that we are launching our sister website We Teach Social on Saturday in collaboration with Amanda of Spiderworking.  Amanda and I have co-founded the KLCK bloggers network as well as organising the Blog Awards and it is hugely exciting for the three of us to launch a new project which will offer online social media courses.  Do sign up to our newsletter for a chance to win a free course too!


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