If you were like me, you probably setup your personal Facebook account because a friend asked “Why aren’t you on Facebook?” Fast-forward a year or two (or eight!) and now you’re one of the 1 billion active users on Facebook or 300 million on Twitter or 400 million users on LinkedIn or one of the 500 million active Instagram users who have at least posted a photo of their to die for, heart-attack inducing burgers. Now having jumped into the deep you may be wondering “What have a I got myself into!?”…or worse “How do I get out!!!!?”
As a small business owner (SBO) you need to make many informed decisions none more so than which marketing media and networking channels to establish your brand. Social media is not going away, so before we ask “Why Every Small Business Needs Social Media,” let’s get back to basics so we can appreciate what it is.
“Social media” describes all the different online technology tools that enable people to easily communicate, through sharing information and resources, via the internet .
Types of social media include:
- Social Networking (e.g. Facebook, Google+)
- Video Sharing (e.g. Vimeo, YouTube)
- Photo Sharing (e.g. Flickr, Instagram)
- Social Bookmarking (e.g. Pinterest, StumbleUpon)
- Collaborative Tools (e.g. Google Documents, Yammer)
- Wikis (e.g. wikimatrix, wikipedia)
- Blogging (e.g. Blogger, WordPress)
- User Reviews/Rating Sites (TripAdvisor, Yelp)
- Mirco-blogging (e.g. Twitter, Tumblr)
- Business Social Pages (e.g. LinkedIn)
- Mobile Image/Video Messaging (Snapchat, Vine)
In most cases setting up an account on a social media site is free. Subsequently, exposure is relatively inexpensive, however marketing is not free. Growing your brand awareness organically through sharing and “likes” requires long term sustained effort and so is relatively “free.” If you need to speed things up sponsored advertising or pay-per-click campaigns can place your event or sale in front of the right audience. You will require a marketing budget but this can start from as little as a few dollars a day.
The hidden costs in social media marketing include the cost of your time or hiring someone to run your campaign. So it would be fair to say that entry into social media marketing is free or inexpensive but there is a resource and time cost to do social media marketing.
If you choose to do-it-yourself, there are plenty of self-editing websites and tools that allow you to engage on one or multiple social media platforms. They allow you to change, curate and schedule shareable content on social media websites. Some of the more advanced packages (e.g. AgoraPulse, Hootsuite, Buffer) give you tools to monitor and analyse the performance of your published content.
Hiring someone or an agency to take on your social media strategy requires proper training and collaboration and social media policies should be put in place. Be sure to assign key people to manage your social activities and ensure they are informed and inspired by you so that they understand the life blood and heart beat of your brand.
Being in social media will not save your business, nor should you take the position that social media is of no value. Social media is not an all or nothing decision. Like any business tool, SBOs need to be educated and learn the craft of the tool so that it contributes to helping your business with your branding, positioning, networking and collaboration efforts.