In 2017, 81% of Americans have a social media profile. This number has steadily increased since 2008, when only 24% of people had used these platforms. With so many people using social media today, it has the potential to be the new frontier for small business marketing.
Small businesses—in terms of revenue and number of employees—can use the plethora of social media platforms to promote sales, advertise new products and services, and expand their customer base. As the IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) liaison for its Small Business Committee, I strongly advocate the use of social media advertising for growing small businesses.
A CASE REPORT
Jennifer is the owner of a handmade-jewelry store in a small town in Iowa. Her store has been open for one year. Jennifer had been advertising her store and building her brand via an online website, the local newspaper, and grassroots marketing. Yet sales have recently plateaued due to the exhausted market.
Now Jennifer is investigating using social media as an inexpensive and easy way to open up new revenue streams and market to a new audience. Here is what she found.
PROMOTING PRODUCTS, SERVICES, AND SALES
Most social media platforms today offer in-feed advertising options for a small price. You can set a target audience’s demographic, location, and interests to increase your return on investment. For Jennifer, she may choose to target women in the surrounding towns or cities who are interested in jewelry or handmade products.
Small businesses can also post about contests, special sales, or coupons to generate more buzz.
INTERACTING WITH CUSTOMERS
Because it’s easy to leave feedback on social media pages, customers can make comments about and rate your products, tag your business in posts about their favorite products, and share your updates about new products with their followers. In turn, this engagement creates more advertising for your business while allowing your customers to interact with your brand. For Jennifer, this direct line of communication may help out-of-state customers ask for directions to her physical store or ask questions before making a purchase.
It’s also important to remember to respond quickly to complaints or questions from customers to improve your reputation among customers.
THE NEW “WORD-OF-MOUTH” ADVERTISING
Word-of-mouth advertising is a technique that can help build a brand and promote small businesses, and it’s been used successfully for decades. Before we had the internet in the palm of our hands, with access to our social groups at the touch of a button, we would socialize face-to-face or on the telephone. Yet online social media has made it a lot easier for small businesses to reach their customers and grow in their industry.
It has been a great experience for me to see how IMA has benefited from increasing awareness about the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) designation through promotion of our ad campaign on social media. Such promotion has increased year over year growth of CMA candidates.
How has social media advertising impacted your small business? What techniques have you used that proved successful?
5 Ways Small Business Owners Can Leverage Social Media to Grow – Forbes
Family-Owned Business Succession Planning – Strategic Finance