According to a Citibank survey a whopping 81% of small businesses are not using social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Almost half of those businesses (47%) claim that social media is of no relevance to their business.
So are they right? Is social media a waste of time for traditional small businesses or are they missing out on a major opportunity? More to the point, should your business be going social and if so, why?
Small businesses have traditionally invested heavily in face-to-face relationships and relied heavily on referrals and word of mouth recommendations to generate new leads, which makes their insistence that social media won't work for their business more than a little perplexing. After all, Twitter and LinkedIn are the very places where existing and prospective customers (700 million of them) are talking about and actively recommending local businesses. Doesn't that count as word of mouth marketing? And if it does, why on earth wouldn't you want to join in the conversation or at the very least find out what they're saying about you and your competitors?
The bottom line: your customers are on social media whether you know it or not, which means you need to be there too. Yes, it can be daunting mastering the technology and finding the time to engage effectively but at the end of the day it all boils down to talking to your customers and prospects on their turf. What could possibly be more important than that?
Not so fast, I hear you say. That's all well and good but getting customers to engage with a traditional bread and butter local business like ours is far from easy. When they only need to call on our services once or twice a year why on earth would they want to read and share our content?
Well, if all you do in the social media space is push your sales message and boring updates about your business you are going to struggle. Rather like the crashing bore at a party who pins you to the wall and insists on relating his entire life history, you'll have them desperately seeking the exits in no time.
Instead, take a leaf out of the book of London based PGS Plumbers and focus on creating useful, accessible and compelling content geared towards the consumer which establishes you as an authority in your field.
- Also read 7 Things A Plumber Can Do To Get Noticed
Be topical and don't forget to have some fun along the way. A quick search of the PGS blog, for example, reveals articles on exploding toilets and blood-powered lamps as well as informative posts on how much it costs to run Christmas lights, how to reduce limescale and how to protect plants in cold weather.
Finally, make it easy for your customers to share your content and most important of all, when they do comment on your blog, post a review or tweet about your company, respond quickly and in a helpful and friendly manner. In this day and age of rising prices and declining service standards, consumers dont have high expectations of local businesses. So go out of your way to acknowledge and engage with them and they will be both surprised and delighted and far more likely to recommend you to others. 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations when it comes to choosing service providers, so having an active social media presence may well give you an unfair advantage, if you do it right.
Jan is a digital marketing coach and founding Director of WOW Consulting, anEssex online marketing and website design company. Jan's speciality is demystifying digital marketing and show small businesses how to integrate web, mobile and social media into their marketing strategies to create sustainable competitive advantage and profitable growth.