In 2012, as all of my clients are aware, social networks continued to take on a growing role. In addition to personal use, more and more businesses are taking advantage of the benefits that social media sites offer.
A study by global management consulting firm Booz & Company and Buddy Media found that 96% of companies surveyed would be increasing their investments in social media. Use of social media in PR, advertising, and customer service efforts were the most frequently reported. Other efforts frequently reported included market research and recruitment.
So, why are so many businesses getting involved? How could they ignore the ongoing explosive growth of social media? EMarketer predicts there will be an astounding 1.43 billion social network users in 2012. This represents a 19.2 percent increase over 2011 figures and an enormous share of the world’s population.
While we may reach a social media saturation point someday, it does not seem like it will happen soon. From EMarketer, “[i]n 2012, 63.2% of internet users will visit a social network at least once a month, rising to 67.6% in 2013 and 70.7% in 2014. At those user rates, one out of every five people in the world will use a social network this year, and one in every four will do so in 2014.”
It would be foolish for business not to take these facts under consideration. However, an important question remains. Why and how should small and medium-sized businesses, especially in the B2B sector, engage with their audiences via social media? This is a question I ask myself on a regular basis before recommending that any client dedicate resources to adding social media into their marketing mix or expand their current efforts.
As you move forward in 2013 with your social media efforts, whether at the beginning of the process or well underway, here are a couple tips that may be helpful:
- Don’t underestimate the importance of your social media policy. Review your current policy. Update it if necessary and share it with all of your employees. The National Labor Relations Board recently issued two rulings calling one businesses’ social media policy “overly broad” but also stating that social media postings are not protected under federal labor law.
- Invest in content creation and expand your internal social media circle. There is no getting around the time required to successfully grow and manage a social media following. Identify appropriate experts and advocates for your organization and provide them the tools and rules to tell your story. Establishing your credibility and having it validated is achieved by sharing relevant, timely and interesting content that’s both owned and earned. If you do not have time, or the internal resources, there are plenty of PR folks willing to help.
- There’s nothing wrong with being a “lurker.” If you don’t want to personally engage via social media, do yourself and your business a favor: listen. In the study cited above, Booz & Company noted that more and more businesses are using social media as market research and customer service tools. Why not find out?
- Ask for help. There are plenty of seasoned PR professionals out there who can assist you in developing and implementing the social media component of your marketing plan. Their expertise and creative thinking may be just what your business needs to jumpstart and effective social media marketing program that effectively drives your sales.