Why SMEs can have a social media presence to match the big guns

Clarence Digital

27/05/16

How often have you been drawn to a product or company because of a snappy and well-thought-out social media presence? When you are browsing through your various social media apps and sites, it is becoming all the more common to spot some high profile brands making their point online. With television not the advertising platform it once was, social media is the perfect place to build a reputation and develop a following.

It is surprising how many companies miss out on this golden opportunity to bring in customers, followers and those all important pounds and dollars.The argument is often than small and medium sized enterprises simply aren’t big enough to make it worth the while. If you feel that you can’t push forward and use social media to expand, then perhaps it is time to assess the facts and think again. A strong online profile can work wonders for companies of any size and the space online does not have to be dominated by the big boys.

Whilst it is easy to envy the spending power of large companies and all the obvious benefits that come with the giant budgets they can afford, it does not necessarily mean a small or medium sized enterprise can’t adopt some of the tactics to give themselves a boost. It may feel like the big companies are miles ahead, but they can still offer some valuable lessons for a smaller company.

The rise of social media and the importance it carries

Regus, a global corporation that provides office space for businesses, conducted a recent survey that highlighted the growing importance of companies of all sizes being active on social media. The results showed that “43% of American businesses are successfully using social networking to win new customers” in 2015, up by 8% from the previous year. The report goes on to claim that “almost 50% of companies were using Twitter to engage, connect with, and inform existing customers.”

In the UK, a culture of ignoring such technological advances seems to be abating, with more companies now looking to get involved. The number of small businesses still banning staff from accessing all forms of social media has now fallen to just 15%, whilst 37% say that they have not put any restrictions in place at all.

For the many who have refused to come on board however, it could well prove to be a costly error and misjudgement. The Regus report goes on to say that, “social networking has fully evolved from a nice to have to a necessity as the majority of businesses in the US (69%) and internationally (74%) agree that social media activity is playing a bigger role in their market strategy.”

Kickstarting your growth

When it comes to social media, SME’s are often guilty of an inferiority complex. Not only is this out of place, it can seriously hamper the potential of the business. There is no reason why a smaller company can’t take advantage of the biggest platform out there and have their voices heard by the masses. It just takes some intelligence and willingness to take advantage of what can be learnt from the bigger names.

Nonetheless, it is important to be realistic in your approach and realise that success comes with numbers of followers and viewers. This is unlikely to grow rapidly organically, so it is well worth considering using companies who will provide paid exposure.

Almost every large company has a Facebook page and a Twitter account, but an alarming number of small and medium sized enterprises are reluctant to get on board and provide such platforms of engagement with customers. 

Internet shopping and social media usage is continuing to grow, with Statista claiming that over 205 million people used online shopping in 2015 in the US alone. Likewise, with 1.23 billion Facebook users and 310 million Twitter users worldwide, it is a huge chunk of the market that an SME that doesn’t engage in social media is missing out on.

If your customers can’t easily find your online profile, then they will simply go somewhere else. It is not a risk worth taking for something as simple as ensuring that you are easily accessible on the internet.

However, it is vital that you consider what type of social media platforms are appropriate. Assuming that just because the company has a Facebook page, customers will flock is a sure-fire way to failure. A company that is looking to sell business-to-business may benefit from focusing on LinkedIn for example. With only 140 characters at your disposal on Twitter, it is not the best platform for such dealings and is a greater hit when aimed at the wider public, claims Dave Sumner Smith, CEO of Next Dimension Media. 

Monitor the competition

Keep an eye out for what rival companies are doing online can provide SME’s with a free and easy starting point. This will give an indication of what works and what can be tweaked for better results, as well as giving a realistic expectation of what can be achieved within a certain time frame, according to Real Business. The biggest names in the game do not keep themselves isolated; one eye is always on those they consider rivals and it is an attitude that can help an SME make the step up too. Following updates on a competitors Facebook and Twitter feeds in particular should give much of the information that is needed before pushing on with your own campaign.

Monitor your output

Although it can certainly help to know what competitors are doing in their approach to social media, it is far more important to monitor what goes on in your own social media campaigns. A failure to keep tabs on what content is going out or a lazy approach will undermine the whole point of using social media in the first place. Large enterprises typically employ a team of social media specialists who will focus on what kind of output is receiving engagement and what needs to be changed or pulled altogether. 

Whilst such an outlay may not be feasible for an SME, it is still vital that anything that goes out on online is monitored and feedback is given, otherwise it is a waste of time and money. If nobody is responding to your tweets, something needs to be changed. This can only be done if you take the time to try to spot the problems in the first place.

There are several high quality analytical programmes available that are suitable for SME’s and it can make life a whole lot easier. As the Guardian reports, the surest way to be certain that your social media approach has any chance of success is to monitor, monitor, monitor.

The personal touch

Small and medium sized enterprises are often considered the backbone of the economy and their importance cannot be understated. But how can these crucial smaller businesses make their mark against the backdrop of a market dominated by large corporations? The most effective way is to use their smaller size to their advantage.

An SME can offer something the bigger names simply cannot; a personalised and warmer approach that targets the individual. It is human nature to respond and react positively to something that is personalised and gives the feeling that it is targeted directly at you. Business is no different and it is far easier for smaller and medium sized enterprises to convince customers that they are approaching them in a more personal manner.

SME’s can take lessons from bigger brands when it comes to this factor. Many of the large corporations use tools that provide marketing automation software and recommendation engines, effectively taking a customer’s previous browsing and buying habits and suggesting other purchases from the data.

A smaller company can employ such tactics in moderation to give that personal touch, although it should be noted that many larger companies are often over-reliant on such technology. Indeed, it can lead to some amusing consequences, with Amazon particularly guilty of high-profile gaffes when it comes to suggestions. The UK branch of the global retailer suggested customers who bought a baseball bay may also be interested in a balaclava. Perhaps a little short of encouraging crime, it was still a moment of embarrassment. 

SME’s are unlikely to have such issues as the usage of this technology will smaller and more focused. It is a great way to keep make your customers feel loved.

Why the local market matters

Chances are that small and medium sized enterprises are only going to have a limited margin of error when it comes to targeting and building a core base of customers. Unlike the mega brands who can touch almost every country on the planet and have the big bucks to target anything and everything, SME’s need to be more focused when considering who they are aiming their social media campaigns at. 

Going global often requires the funding and capital that is simply not available for many SME’s, but they can follow the example of the bigger companies with a little tweak. Instead of diving straight in, using social media is a great way to research the local market in a foreign country or an area you are not familiar with. It also makes the forging of partnerships far easier and can lead to the company’s name being on the lips of customers that might have other been missed, claims Translate Media.

Establishing an enterprise of any size is full of challenges and difficulties, but with the amount of risk involved nowadays it would seem to go without saying that all companies would do everything within their means to ensure their business is a success. Therefore, it is remarkable that many SME’s have not taken the time to get to know and utilise social media properly. With the potential it offers to a company, it is simply no longer an option not to have a strong online presence. The big boys of the business world can certainly offer a lesson to the more moderate-sized enterprises, and it is definitely worth heeding. A smart and well-thought-out approach to social media could be the tipping point that takes your business to the next level.