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This article was written by Kristen Herhold. Kristen is a writer for The Manifest and focuses on social media, digital marketing, and advertising business trends.
Ninety-two percent of small businesses plan to invest more in social media this year, and Facebook’s recent Cambridge Analytica scandal isn’t slowing them down. Social media helps businesses reach consumers, who can in turn learn more about a company.
The #DeleteFacebook movement hasn’t deterred small businesses from increasing their investment in social media as a whole and Facebook in particular.
That’s according to a new report from The Manifest, which found that 92 percent of small businesses plan to spend more time and money on social media in 2018, and more than half (58 percent) want to increase their investment in Facebook.
Let’s look at why the vast majority of small businesses are doubling down on social media in 2018 and what businesses can do to be successful.
Social Media is Where Your Customers Are
As of 2017, 81% of Americans have a profile on at least one social media network. And according to Pew, around two-thirds of U.S. adults are on Facebook, the second-most popular social media network, after YouTube.
These days, people use social media for far more than connecting with friends and family — it’s where they go for entertainment and news, to discover products, get information, reach customer service and more.
Customers also use social media to see reviews of companies before deciding to make a purchase – 23 percent of consumers check Facebook reviews before visiting a business.
It’s clear that if you want to reach customers today, you need to be on social media. That’s especially true for online businesses without a physical presence, like online retailer The Jacket Maker, which cited social media as “the most essential channel to bring authenticity to a brand like ours.”
By using social media to build connections with customers and share their brand stories, businesses convey authenticity and legitimacy, which helps inspire trust in consumers and ultimately, drive traffic and sales.
Social Media is Not Just for Big Companies
While nearly all (85 percent) companies with more than 51 employees invest in social media, smaller companies aren’t ignoring it. In fact, more than half (58 percent) of businesses with just one employee spend time and money building their social profiles.
For some sole proprietors, like Heather Younger, of Customer Fanatix, social media is their primary customer acquisition channel. Says Younger: “Social media is the main way I build my brand and get new clients… I have found that people who buy from me do so because of my written voice and the character that I show in comments, posts and videos.”
Social media is an essential tool for telling a business’s story.
Social Media Is Pay-to-Play
Now the bad news: As social media has become a more popular promotion channel for businesses, it’s become increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd. Changes to Facebook’s algorithm haven’t helped matters, and many marketers now consider social media essentially “pay-to-play.”
So, it’s not too surprising that as organic reach dwindles, nearly half of businesses (46 percent) say they’re shifting budget from traditional marketing avenues to paid social media advertising.
Of course, that shift isn’t all Facebook’s fault — the other big driver is that people consume different media now than they did even ten years ago. Print advertising and other non-digital channels just don’t have the reach that social media does.
Brands that fail to advertise there are ignoring a potentially massive audience of prospective customers.
Two Tips for Succeeding on Social Media
When you’re just focused on keeping the lights on, it can be tough to prioritize something that may seem a bit frivolous, like social media.
In fact, not having the human or financial resources is the top social media challenge businesses of all sizes face.
Still, even a small investment can pay off — more than half of businesses say social media has had a positive impact on revenue and sales.
Here are two important things you can do to be successful on social media:
Get Help With Strategy
While 53 percent of small businesses use in-house staff for social media, that may not be the best approach. Most small businesses just don’t have the time or know-how to keep up with the rapidly changing world of social media and run a business at the same time.
At a minimum, you might want to outsource strategy, says Jeff Gibbard of digital agency I’m From the Future. “An outside strategist can provide the right direction, ultimately saving the business time and money.”
Freelancers or consultants, which 33 percent of small businesses use, or digital marketing/social media marketing agencies (24 percent) can help provide direction for your business, even if you or your team ultimately handles implementation.
Focus on the Right Metrics
One important step to succeeding on social media is defining what success will look like. Along with lacking a strategy, not having well-defined goals for social media, or worse, focusing on the wrong goals, is an all too common mistake businesses make.
What should you focus on? Experts say that engagement is the most important metric for measuring the success of social media efforts. Marketers in The Manifest’s report agreed, with 20 percent citing it as the key metric to track.
As Shawn Alain of social media agency Viral in Nature says, “You can have a million followers, but if you’re getting no engagement, you’ve got nothing. You need engagement to succeed on social media.”
The Bottom Line
With social media playing a major role in consumers’ lives today, businesses of all sizes in every industry can’t afford to ignore it. Small businesses and online businesses in particular should look to social media as a way to share their stories, build trust with consumers and reach a much broader audience than other advertising mediums would allow.
But they should also be prepared to invest more time and money in order to be successful, both in paid advertising and perhaps in getting outside help with strategy.
What success will look like is different for every business, but focusing on the right things – namely generating engagement – will go a long way toward helping businesses reach more people and ultimately, drive revenue.