Should SMEs Invest in Social Media? [By Vanessa Teo]

Walk into a MRT train and you might find commuters scrolling through their Facebook news feed. Walk into a café and you might find diners uploading pictures taken of their food on Instagram.

Why Should I Be Using Social Media For My Business?

Social media is like the world’s largest cocktail party, where people can listen to others talking and join the conversations with other people about any topic of their choice. In an age where we are now more connected than ever before, social media marketing is an invaluable tool and has led companies, organizations and governments to figure out how to accomplish more with less money – to get their messages out there and talked about, without spending as many dollars on declining media like television, radio and print. Word-of-mouth marketing has always been considered the purest and best form of marketing, and social media has continued to prove this fact in many ways. Thanks to social media, word can spread much faster now as compared to two decades ago. People like to share and feel connected to each other, brands, organizations and even governments they like and trust.

For SME firms, knowing how to capitalise on this is crucial. In order to truly differentiate themselves from their competitors, SMEs need to understand that social media marketing revolves around more than just uploading social media posts on a regular basis.

Where Should I Start?

Knowing what to do with social media in order to be successful is key and several actions are found to be vital for engaging customers online: asking users questions – be it general or business-related – putting feelers out for advice and solutions, sharing stories and posting inspirational quotes.

A large percentage of Singaporeans are heavy consumers of social media, but what SME owners must first focus on is their target market. The key questions to think about are who your customers are, where they usually live, what their lifestyles are, what their interests are, business wise and outside of business, and that would give you big clues as to the social networks they are likely to be using.

When Can I Best Utilize Social Media?

There are four stages of a customer life cycle which forms the whole brand experience:

  1. Discovery – A potential customer is introduced to your brand
  2. Consideration – He/she considers your brand’s offerings compared with those of your competitors
  3. Conversion – He/she purchases and becomes your brand’s customer
  4. Engagement – You nurture engagements with those wonderful people who purchase your brand’s products or services

Social media is best utilized during the Discovery and Engagement stages. However, SME firms are still using social mainly for the sake of converting a follower to a sale. That’s like painting with a hammer. You can do it – sort of – but it obviously makes far more sense to use a brush. This is particularly true when attempting to engage cynical Generation X clients or advertising-weary Millennials and Generation Zs. They want to hear your story. They want to know whether you share the same values and have a solution to a challenge they may be experiencing. No matter their age, virtually anyone who engages with your brand on social media wants to get to know you. So, instead of heading for a hard sales pitch, expect to build a relationship over time through compelling social media content.

Time to Take Action

No matter what the size of your business or organization, you too have the ability to follow simple rules of social media to reap the rewards. SME firms need to know that marketing in a social media world is not about broadcasting your message and getting the largest reach and frequency. It is about tapping in to the conversation, listening, engaging and empowering. The loudest, biggest spenders don’t win anymore. The smartest, most flexible listeners do.

 What Social Media Can and Can’t Do

Before I end this article, I would like to share three key points about social media to dispel any myths you may have heard:

  1. Social media cannot make up for a bad product or company. If you’re marketing a bad product or service, not only will social media not help you but it will actually hurt your cause because word will spread quickly. The good news is, if you’re using social media well, you will quickly know when you have bad products, employees or processes and can fix these problems before they cause any serious damage.
  2. Social media won’t lead to overnight sales success. Success will take time, and it will eventually come in increased buzz, referrals, traffic, and eventually, sales. Social media is not an instant win. We are talking about building relationships with people, and that invariably takes time.
  3. Social media is not free. It will take time and/or money to achieve sustained growth. Since it is free to join Facebook and any social network worth talking about, many SME firms think social media is free, or at least cheap. Although it is nearly impossible to spend the kind of money on social media that large companies regularly have spent on television, building and executing a likeable social media plan will take lots of time and work. Ultimately, such a plan cannot be the sole effort of any one marketing or public relations department. Instead, it must be integrated across your entire company.

Now, let’s get sociable.

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