How long have you been using social media to promote your small business?

The stats tell us that 2009 was about the time that social media changed marketing for small business. It’s when they really started to take social media seriously as a marketing channel that was both cheap, and easy to manage.

With the sustained and continuous increase in social network users across the world, more and more businesses are using social platforms to connect and engage with consumers. Social media is proving to be an attractive avenue for Small Business owners looking for innovative ways to market their business to a broader audience.

Small and medium businesses are now more aware than ever about the significance of an effective social media presence.

Small Businesses and Social Media: A Small Statistical Timeline

2009:

  • 1 in 5 small business owners had a social media presence.
  • Facebook and LinkedIn were the most popular networks (75% combined).
  •  Twitter users among Small Businesses were 16%.

2011:

  • Social media adoption among small to medium businesses doubled from 2009.
  • Twitter grew by 26%.
  • Facebook and LinkedIn remained the favorites.
  • Nearly 50% of small businesses grew their customer base on social media.

2013

  • 90% of small businesses have an online social media presence.
  • 53% of them feel that online campaigns are as important as in-person marketing.
  • 78% of small to medium businesses gained a quarter of their new customers via online campaigns.

More Users and More Money Being Put into Social Media

Facebook, the world’s most popular social network with over a billion unique users remains the overwhelming favorite for small businesses to maintain an online presence. But effective social media campaigns invariably hinge on a multi-pronged strategy involving sustained presence on multiple platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

While Facebook remains the clear favorite over 90% adherents, Twitter and LinkedIn follow close on its heels with 78% and 50% users respectively. Along with increased adoption rates, small businesses are also starting to spend more on their social media campaigns. Statistics show that in cases nearly 4 times as many businesses have increased their social media budgets compared to those that have decreased theirs.

Three Reasons Why Social media is Perfect for Small Business

1. Accessibility: an effective social media campaign is quite cheap when compared to traditional marketing strategies. And the simplicity and ease of use of social networks also encourages small business owners to venture into this arena with confidence.

2. Increased Interaction: there is an incredibly high degree of participation from both small businesses as well as their audience on social networks. On Facebook, for instance, an incredible 80-90% of businesses market their wares to users of whom an equal number (80% plus) prefer to connect with brands through their Facebook pages. Social media seems to effectively bring businesses and their customers together.

3. Effectiveness: more and more small businesses are finding their social media campaigns hitting the mark. Over 60% of businesses who use Twitter find their campaigns on the site to be effective. For LinkedIn, the number stands at 55%. Facebook is still the top dog in the mix though with over 75% small businesses finding their online campaigns to be effective in some way or other.

Leading By Example: Some Notable Social Media Success Stories Among Small Businesses

Coconut Bliss: the Eugene, Oregon based organic dessert company was a major success story with their social media campaigns, especially on Twitter. Their smart use of captivating images and contests along with a strategic partnership with the online platform VegNews got them increased visibility and sales.

Ana Whitehers is a stunning example of how a single individual can generate a massive following with creative and original content online. With over 51,000 Facebook fans, and a highly engaged online community and blog that encourages participation from the audience, Ana has single-handedly managed to create something that many big businesses can only dream about.

Greg Burney:  a Twitter success story based on a creative marketing strategy, Greg is a UK based artist and designer who attracted over 4,000 followers online seemingly out of nowhere. This feat was carried out without a big budget or an ad agency. Burney’s idea was simple, have a campaign where promised to draw pictures of the first 3000 people who followed him on Twitter. This novel way of online interaction with a personal touch drew widespread praise and recognition for the artist.

AJ Bombers: small local businesses need not restrict themselves to location based social networking. That is the lesson from the success of this Milwaukee based burger joint/restaurant. With an online campaign involving Facebook and Twitter, the restaurant saw their sales skyrocket. Through an efficient use of special offers, Bombers increased their sales figures while gaining more visibility. With zero advertising involved, when they posted tips about their burger recipes online, the sales of that item grew by 30% in a week.  If you’re a restaurateur interested in a similar campaign, make sure you’re using a restaurant Point of Sale system to track the growth in sales and profit.

5 Key Takeaways After 5 Years of Social Marketing

  • Don’t just market, engage with customers. All the successful small business social media campaigns involved instances where the businesses strived to connect with their audience in meaningful ways, rather than blind promotion.
  • Content is king. Social media is already getting crowded with businesses, especially small businesses. Originality and creativity make or break a social media campaign. Those that can stand out from the rest of the pack with rich and interesting content are the ones that survive and prosper.
  • Give the customers what they want. A majority of online users expect some kind of benefit from following a business or brand online. Those businesses that wake up to this reality and involve special offers, gifts and deal on their social media pages reap rich dividends.
  • Use multimedia effectively. Captivating images and entertaining video posts go a long way in attracting attention. Remember the age old internet mantra: WSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). Effectively utilize the potential of sites like YouTube and Pinterest to grab attention with attractive content.
  • Do not lose focus. It is essential to have a proper strategy in mind. With the profusion of online marketing platforms, it can be hard for small businesses to maintain an effective and sustainable online presence. The trick here is to not try to be everywhere at once. Identify key targets and run a focused and coordinated campaign across several networks for maximum effect.

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As part of Upserve’s family of more than 10,000 restaurants, The Chef is Restaurant Insider’s secret weapon in the kitchen. As a restaurant expert in all things marketing, menu building, management, training and more, restaurateurs trust The Chef and the award-winning Restaurant Insider to dish out the ingredients needed to make your business a sweet success.