Is social media still of value to small business?

Is social media still of value to small business?

Has the recent Facebook data scandal devalued social media as a viable small business marketing channel? Here's how to play the smart social media game as a small business.

Social media has definitely been a topic of controversy of late. Prompting the question: Is social media undergoing a painful death? Will it no longer be a prime marketing channel for small businesses?

The Cambridge Analytica scandal undoubtedly had people questioning their social media habits.

And let’s not forget earlier this year when Kylie Jenner caused Snap Chat’s stocks to lose $1.3 billion in market value. All from one simple tweet.

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Anecdotally, people also seem to be getting resentful of the time they waste on the various platforms.

So it goes without saying - platforms popular one day, can take a fall the next.

Does this spell the end for social media?

Well let’s take a look at the figures.

Hootesuite and We are Social’s 2018 Global Digital Report found there are 17 million active social media users in Australia.

That’s 69% of the total population.

What more, there’s been a 6% increase –  1 million users - since January 2017.

Australian social media users

These users spend on average 1 hour and 39 minutes on social media daily.

While I'm sure numbers may dip from the recent scandal, these figures show that social media is well and truly alive in Australia. 

However, it doesn't mean you need to jump onto every platform, or abandon ones for the next hottest social hub.

Most small businesses struggle with limited budgets, man power and resources. It means you need to play a smart social media game.

The Australian social media landscape

What’s important is to gain an understanding of the value, audience and use of each platform.

The 2018 Global Digital Report found Facebook was Australia’s favourite social media platform. No surprises there.

But it isn’t a lone player. The majority of the Australian population have multiple social media accounts.

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And it’s not just the young millennials getting involved.  The report found people of all ages were active, with 25-34 the most prolific group at 26%.  The gender of users is fairly even with 52% being female.

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So how can small businesses take advantage?

Know which social media platforms your audience is on

While it might be tempting to have an account on each platform, only do so if you have the time and resources. Otherwise it's better to concentrate on doing it well across specific platforms instead.

As I said it's about playing it smart with what you have. 

If this is your approach, you need to do more research as to which platforms can deliver better value for you. 

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You need to ask your customers which platforms they regularly use.  A survey is a great tactic to doing this. 

Your survey can deliver strong data evidence as to the best platforms to reach, connect and engage with your target audience.

Why bother doing a survey when there are such strong statistics already around?
 
Because you NEED to get a picture of your specific target audience.

I recently set up a sample social media survey to obtain results for this blog. I posted it on my LinkedIn and Facebook accounts inviting my networks to complete the survey.

The results were different to that of the national statistics highlighting the particular preferences of my survey respondents.  The table below shows the platform preferences of my survey group in comparison to national results (in brackets).   It also indicates the platforms they had an account on, but left. 

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But obviously just because they have an account, doesn’t mean they’re active users.

I asked on my survey how often they accessed each account (see table below). 

 Again no surprises. Facebook had the most daily users - streets ahead at 80%, with Instagram following next at 25%.

Users checked into Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn at least weekly. While Twitter, SnapChat and Google+ had lost flavour with many. 

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Know your marketing purpose. 

Yet, just because your audience is spending a lot of time on Instagram doesn't mean that a platform you choose. 

Each platform has a different purpose and audience, just as every business does.  The type of service you offer will dictate which social media platforms will be of more benefit to you.

So you need to know what each social media platform is, what it does and what people use it for.  Each have their own culture. 

Here's a quick overview of each social media platform:

  • Facebook: A social media and networking site. It's popular!
  • Instagram: Image and video networking site
  • Twitter: An instant messaging, micro-blogging news site
  • Pinterest: A visual website where you can pin and share images of specific interests
  • LinkedIn: A professional business and employment networking site
  • YouTube: A video sharing site

So while,  Instagram and Pinterest may a suit a homeware or fashion business, an accountant - or similar professional service business - will most likely find their audience more on LinkedIn.

As for Faceboook - it's world domineering - shouldn't it be a given?  Not necessarily. 

With algorithm changes, it can be hard to get traction for a business page.  But if your audience is on there, perhaps you can look at other ways you can get traction. 

Can you create and operate a local community page that taps into people's interest, rather than a plain business page that you have to rely on people to like and follow. 

Be creative.

    Investigate for your small business social media strategy

    In selecting your social media platforms investigate:

    • What resources are available to you?
    • Who is your target audience? 
    • What platform will best suit your business?
    • Which platforms are your target audience on?
    • Which platforms will your audience use to investigate your type of service?
    • What does the platform offer to you to reach, connect and engage with your target audience?

    Remember you get what you put into your social media

    For social media to work for you, you need to be social.

    It means you need to work the platform to get the most out of it.  It should be an application that'll allow you to connect, engage and network with your audience. Regularly. 

    The occasional post won't cut it.

    For example, let’s look at what two of my survey respondents had to say about LinkedIn.

    One who used it weekly felt they got no value of it at all. While another, who used it daily generated 70% of their business leads from the site.

    70%!   Now that sounds worth it to me.