A Look at Small Businesses and How They are Using Social Media
If you ask what defines a small business, you will quickly discover that it varies greatly across industries, as it relates to total revenue and number of employees. Which means your local mom and pop delicatessen and the manufacturing plant with less than 500 employees share the same small business classification.
In fact, if we want to get down to brass tacks, we should probably have a good understanding of what a small business is before we explore how they are marketing.
What is a Small Business?
According to the SBA, a small business has the following conditions: organized for profit; has a place of business in the U.S.; operates primarily within the U.S. or makes a significant contribution to the U.S. economy through payment of taxes or use of American products, materials or labor; is independently owned and operated; and is not dominant in its field on a national basis. The business may be a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or any other legal form. In determining what constitutes a small business, the definition will vary to reflect industry differences.
In addition, SBA has established “size standards,” for every private sector industry in the U.S. economy; the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is used to identify the industries. Follow these (2) steps to determine if your company falls under a small business classification.
- Locate your NAICS code. Go to the NAICS section of the Bureau of the Census Website. Identify the NAICS code(s) that best describe(s) your business activities.
- Determine your size standard using SBA’s Table of Small Business Size Standards. Match your NAICS code(s) with the appropriate size standard(s).
Now that we’ve established the types of businesses in play for this discussion, let’s take a look at the different ways they market themselves.
Where Small Businesses are Spending Their Marketing Dollars
According to the StrongMail, 2012 Marketing Trends Survey, a poll of over 900 Business Executives showed that email, social media and mobile were all effective marketing channels for building customer loyalty and retention. Almost half of respondents looked to social media to build customer loyalty, while most executives (64%) said social media was most valuable for awareness-building.
With social media channel growth as a key area of focus for small business marketers, let’s review the different ways it is being utilized.
The Value of Social Media for Small Business
Small businesses are perfectly suited for Internet marketing which makes it easy to reach out to niche groups. Further findings from the StrongMail survey show that executives are utilizing social media with these common goals in mind:
Once you’ve established the desired outcome, here are some ways your business can participate in the social web:
- Social Listening – Learn what others are saying about you and your competition.
- Online Reputation Management: Respond to both positive and negative comments - 70% of Companies Ignore Customer Complaints on Twitter!
- Customer Relations – Show customers that their voice matters.
- Promote Events – Use social platforms to announce events and offer special incentives.
- Spread content – Commit to feeding your social channels with interesting content that resonates with your audience.
- Network – Build profiles for your business on professional networking sites and interact with industry groups & associations.
- Become an Authority in your industry – Provide valuable free resources on your site that offers your audience expert solutions, information and tools.
As a small business, it may not be practical to employ all of these tactics at once. But the beauty of social media is that you can start small, adjust and build as you go. As you develop more and different types of content, you can experiment with social outreach based on different audiences, platforms and communication styles. Try not to focus on how many fans or followers you have. Instead work to create a small group of loyal fans and monitor how they like and follow your business on social networking sites and engage with them continually. Over time your base will grow organically.
Please comment below and share your small biz social media success stories.
Stay tuned for my next post which will focus on specific social media tactics for small businesses!
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About Ann-Marie Jancovich
Ann-Marie is the Content Marketing and Promotions Manager at Vertical Measures. She merges multiple marketing disciplines to oversee the development of content for clients, while ensuring their promotional and SEO goals are reached through paid and earned media on social networks. +Ann-Marie Jancovich