Marketing is a huge concern for all small businesses. Even if you have a great product or offer outstanding service, you’re not likely to succeed unless you can get your message out to consumers. To make matters worse, marketing is tricky because it changes so quickly. Traditional advertisements such as direct mail, in-print, radio, and TV ads are still used, but their popularity has diminished as society has become more electronic and internet-based. Interestingly enough, we’re also seeing changes in how advertising is done in the digital age. While businesses typically rely on email marketing and gaining business through their website, social media marketing offers new avenues to reach customers and build loyalty. A new study by Constant Contact illustrates the increased reliance on social media marketing, and the spread of marketing to a range of social media platforms.
Constant Contact is an online marketing company that offers marketing strategies for the digital age, including social media marketing. In May, 2012 they conducted a survey focusing on the challenges and strategies used by small businesses – surveying over 1000 participants in their Small Biz Council to gain insight from actual business owners. The results clearly show the importance of marketing. Here are some key points from the survey:
- 76 percent said that “how to attract new customers” was ‘what keeps them up at night’
- 49% find social media effective for marketing purposes, which ranked 4th behind email marketing, website and in-person interactions
- 59% of respondents answered the question, “which marketing activities do you need help with?” with social media marketing
While this survey helps us get a good picture of the challenges and focuses of small business, Constant Contact decided that we could gain additional insights by conducting additional waves of the survey. You see, one survey gives us a ‘snapshot’ view of the conditions at a certain time. But by conducting a survey repeatedly, you can start to see changes over time. It’s pretty much like the difference between a photograph and a movie.
In December, 2012, Constant Contact conducted the third installment of this ongoing study, and the survey did show changes over time, especially in regards to social media marketing. What the results showed was an expansion of the social media options that small businesses were using and considering as effective marketing tools. The particular question asks which social media platforms do the small businesses respondents consider effective for their business. From May to December there are large increases in all social media platforms, but what is even more interesting is that we are beginning to see an expansion of the social media options small businesses are using. While Facebook continues to rank #1 in terms of marketing effectiveness, other platforms are gaining some ground with small businesses. LinkedIn saw an increase of 19%, Twitter increased 18%, and other platforms like YouTube, Pinterest, Yelp, and Google+ also saw increases.
The results may indicate a growing familiarity and comfort level with marketing via social media. Given its popularity, it is an effective way to reach large groups of potential customers. Also, small businesses are branching out beyond their initial comfort level to explore different tools in the world of social media marketing. With the increased popularity of Facebook alternatives, small business owners are recognizing that there are windows of opportunity to reach different groups of would-be customers through the wide range of social media outlets.
If you haven’t explored social media marketing – or haven’t considered the many social media platforms that extend beyond Facebook – make it a point to check out these sites today. Most are free to join, and you can take your time to explore on your own, deciding how you could spread your message with each unique channel. Here at Small Biz Technology, we’ll continue to bring you the latest updates on social media marketing, but it’s still up to you take the required steps.
Don’t put it off. New customers are waiting for you today.