It’s always challenging for small and medium-sized enterprises to stand out from the crowd in a consumer-driven economy that’s increasingly dependent on a strong online presence. Enhancing business growth and creating tighter bonds with customers are paramount; you also need to be taking advantage of advances in technology to maintain close client relationships.
Although the particular strategies vary, dependent on the industry, one trend is constant across all sectors. In a recent survey of 2,300 SMEs in 23 countries, the majority cited social media as an important means of driving business growth.
Global and domestic expansion was the most important aim of 63% of respondents, while 49% believed expanding products and services was crucial. In all sectors, social media was viewed as a means of getting closer to customers and consequently achieving business growth.
Creating a community with social media
Many SMEs have already tapped into the use of social media to gain a competitive advantage, with 40% of the survey respondents stating they were using social media regularly and 31% saying it had considerably improved customer services. An important role of social media for SMEs is creating an online community, so that organisations can interact directly with customers.
Utilising social media platforms and having the correct tools to access your audience enables SMEs to build strong communities, including international clients.
Going global with social media
The major social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, have a worldwide audience. Forward-thinking SMEs are already taking their business global by using these platforms, maintaining a regularly updated Twitter feed and Facebook page, for example. This aspect of social media is vital in today’s climate for SMEs who are looking to expand beyond their local district.
Gauging customer opinion
By using monitoring tools, organisations can analyse consumer behaviour from data gathered on social media sites. This information provides a basis for improving client engagement and making marketing decisions. SMEs can use analytics to track customers’ input on services and products, gaining a valuable insight into customer trends. The information enables businesses to provide targeted offers and increase cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
Maximising ROI on advertising and marketing
Social media can enable SMEs to maximise ROI by first engaging with their target audience and then promoting their services and products in a more personal way. The major social media sites provide users with the opportunity to upload photos and videos. Pictures from an event, or videos of a new product being demonstrated, can speak volumes and bring the SMEs to life far more effectively than words alone.
Managing your brand
Social media is an excellent platform for SMEs to manage their brand, enhancing their reputation and identifying opportunities. Studies have revealed that consumers base the majority of their purchasing decisions on reviews and recommendations. Reputation management tools can monitor online mentions of your brand, services or products, enabling you to engage in any active conversations. This can help nip any negativity in the bud by understanding customer needs that haven’t been met and responding directly. It can also help convert potential clients into customers.
Boosting your website traffic
The increasing popularity of social media has prompted many search engines to add social signals to their SEO (search engine rankings) algorithm. Any SME that participates in social media and provides links to their website via a social media profile will receive a boost in quality traffic to the website.
Improving employee productivity
A key to a motivated workforce and the retention of staff is personal involvement and engagement. Any SME aiming to expand must ensure that the relevant social analytics and collaboration tools are in place to engage effectively with both customers and staff. Employees who use social media to engage dynamically with customers, shape an improved brand and respond promptly to changes in consumer preference will feel more involved. Greater job satisfaction and improved productivity go hand in hand.
For many experts, social media is set to become the most important investment for SMEs over the next three years. However small your organisation, you can’t afford to ignore the digital revolution. Investing in better technology now will pay for itself in the long term with the benefits it will reap for your business in the future.