An article on Forbes from 2013 highlighted that small businesses were turning in “droves” to use social media, but were not seeing any return on investment to show for their efforts. This particular article surprised me – since as a consumer – I frequently rely on social media to help for purchasing decisions. So why might this not be working out? Should small businesses even use it?
The best answer to this questions seems to be: Expectations vs reality.
Expectations are something we all have of each other and ourselves. I know many instances where I have expected an outcome; and it hasn’t happened. For example, I used to buy a scratchie once a week – expecting to win enough prizes to cover the cost. Of course, after one year I was left disappointed with total earnings around $5. I got quite a few “free tickets” though.. (which never amounted to anything).
It seems small businesses may be trying their luck the same way. Hoping to get a massive spike in customer numbers or sales from a small investment online. A more recent article from October 2016 shows nearly half small businesses are now marketing online, and via social media. The article also describes three popular ways they using social media: To share info about sales, gain likes/fans and respond to customer feedback.
In my opinion, I believe one of the most important things small businesses can do is respond to feedback. When I see businesses replying to comments or announcing initiatives based on feedback, it helps me connect personally, and feel a connection. This is especially important in hospitality, as a couple of negative reviews left unanswered can have a negative effect.
The opposite of this may also be true, as too many replies can sound defensive. I remember one particular restaurant on Zomato had a collection of mixed reviews and the owner seems to reply to all the negative ones. In his responses he sounds defensive, tends to blame the customer in some way and has a rather turse tone – in my opinion. This kind of retaliation is off-putting to me, and not in the best interests for the business either.
In regards to “likes”, this may not be the powerful fame gathering tool everyone thought. As we have seen with Brexit and the US presidential election, people’s opinions on social media and through polling does not always tell the whole story.
These examples highlight the unpredictive nature of social media, and the need for small businesses to proceed with caution.
So is social media still worth it? The short answer is: yes.
If I was to start a small business, setting up a FaceBook page would be the very first thing I would do. Instantly I will have an audience which spans most of the developed world, and a platform where communication is simple and easy. I might not even need a dedicated website!
Also, for younger generations especially, social media is THE way to connect with consumers. Don’t have a Facebook page? Don’t share the latest news and products online? All your competitors will, and you will be left behind. But be cautious too. Small businesses should remember to accept negative feedback professionally, and consider social media a customer interaction tool; not simple a marketing function.
As marketing guru Bryan Kramer puts it.. ”There is no more B2B or B2C. It’s H2H: Human to Human.”