Digital Marketing: Advantages of Social Media Marketing For Small Businesses
As many businesses begin to appreciate the usefulness of the internet as a major component of their communication and interactive platforms, the idea of embracing alternative marketing strategies is one that has gained significant momentum in the corporate world, particularly among small businesses. Social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and MySpace have gained global popularity, and social media marketing has proved to be one of the most fruitful marketing strategies, with significant benefits in terms of increased customer base and revenues. According to eMarketer (2013), one in every five people across the globe uses social media networks. The number of social media users across the globe as at 2013 stood at 1.73 billion; by 2017, the figure is projected to reach 2.55 billion people. Social media marketing can be defined as a type of internet marketing that makes use of social networking websites (including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySpace) as tools for marketing. The main goal is to generate content that users share with their social networks, which in turn helps the business to increase its brand visibility and expand its customer reach (Tuten, 2008). This paper seeks to examine the advantages that small businesses get from using social media marketing.
Source: Karr (2014).
Source: eMarketer (2013).
Customer Engagement at Little or no costs involved
Social media marketing is popular among small businesses because it costs little or nothing to these businesses. Many small business face budgetary challenges, therefore, they have limited advertising budgets, which makes social media marketing the best platform as it offers a free avenue for marketing. Other than being free, the social media platforms offer these businesses an interactive forum to meet their customers. Under traditional advertising, there is one-way communication where businesses pass their messages to customers, but they receive no immediate feedback. However, social media allows small businesses to interact with their customers in real-time. Through these interactions, these businesses are able to retail their products and services to individual customers (Tuten, 2008). Similarly, social media offers a useful platform through which small businesses are able to create relationships that permit both the customer and the business to make a decision on when they will do business.
The interactive relationship created between a small business and its customers through social media marketing gives these businesses a competitive advantage in the market. When used properly, social media marketing permits a business to collect information about its customers and respond to their needs much faster compared to traditional marketing channels. For a small business to be successful in maintaining its competitive edge through social media marketing, it must identify a medium that is both manageable and reflects positively on the service or product it offers. Failure to choose the correct medium may damage the firm`s image and the advertising may not create any value. For example, platforms that are highly interactive and generate high traffic such as Facebook and MySpace may not be appropriate for professional services. For example, a small law firm may be more interested in getting testimonials and not a continuous flow of wall posts that call for frequent attention. Such services are best-marketed using platforms such as LinkedIn to portray the professional image of the business and Twitter to permit real-time engagement with current and potential clients. On the other hand, for a business such as a music band, a social media platform such as MySpace offers significant opportunities for the band to share its music while at the same time interacting with its fan base. It appeals to the younger audience, other band, and the entertainment industry as a whole. However, platforms such as Facebook and MySpace give the end consumers the ability to post messages on their connection’s page. As a result, small businesses that make use of such platforms have to monitor their pages consistently and remove all posts that may be offending or may discourage potential customers.
Allows Small Businesses to Focus on their Specific Target Markets
Unlike big companies, small businesses may lack the capacity to serve a large number of customers. Small businesses grow at a slow pace because of capacity challenges. If too much growth is achieved, the business will be forced to employ more people, which may not be the goal of the business. On the other hand, if the business achieves too little growth, it may be outcompeted by rival businesses. As a result, these businesses tend to focus on a particular segment of their customer base and commit to serving them better. Therefore, social media marketing allow such businesses to select which customers it sends its marketing messages because the size of the business limits its ability to serve many customers at any given time. Under traditional adverting, messages are broadcasted to a broader audience, which makes it difficult for smaller businesses to target their messages. However, social media permit these firms to decide to whom they should send their advertising messages. This allows them to select their niche market. For example, on platforms such as Facebook, a small business can create a fan page of its niche market. Similarly, Twitter allows businesses to choose who receives their messages. LinkedIn permits businesses to connect through the people in their networks. As a result, they only offer their products and services to an in-group (people who are members of their network).Other than growth, social marketing also permits small businesses to have control over the business and its clients. Small business owners, for example a home based business, may be interested in knowing their clients. Social media offers the best platform to with friends and friends’ friends directly. For instance, some people operate gym studios in their home compounds. For such businesses, the businesses owner has to be very careful with whomever he accepts as a client. As a result, he/she only markets to those people he knows who may in turn know someone in need of a personal trainer. Platforms such as Facebook once friends connect to the network, the business owner can learn more about his potential targets by going through their profile information and enquiring about them from friends and family (Laudon, 2008).
Business Exposure through Search Engine Optimization
For small businesses that seek to achieve more exposure, social media marketing offers significant opportunities though search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines have evolved significantly since they were introduced by Google in 1998, and they continue to evolve (Laudon, 2008). This has enabled small businesses to feature in unsponsored search links (links that have not been paid for). This is because the more visibility a small business has online, the higher the likelihood of the business appearing in a keyword search. For example, a small music band with a significant online presence pushes the search engine results its way, making the band look like a good authority, and this allows people to find the band on the internet.
Allows a Small Start Up To Penetrate the Market
Social media marketing permits a small business to market share quickly. For example, when new shoe shop is opened, it initially makes connections with a small of people who are already familiar with its products. For example, it can create a Facebook fan page and ask its current customers to like the fan page in their social media accounts. This expands their visibility in the market exponentially because other customers who are friends to their existing customers are able to know about the existence of the business and the products it offers. This strategy of getting new business through social media is referred to as word-of-mouse advertising (The Economist, 2012). This strategy is one of the most powerful digital marketing tools available to marketers today. A business simply announces its entry to the market through a small number of its loyal fans, and then seat and wait for new contacts without spending too much effort.
Source: Emarketexperts (2015).
Simple, Worldwide Reach, and Flexible
Unlike traditional marketing that requires specialized skills and equipment to produce marketing content, social media marketing channels are easy to use, and anybody with basic IT skills can develop and post marketing content. All a small business needs is a PC and internet connection. Furthermore, social media marketing permits small businesses to pass their information within seconds regardless of their geographic location. A business owner is able to customize content for each of the target market segments, allowing businesses to reach a wider audience than ever before. In fact, once a marketing message goes viral, it can reach any number of people with no extra cost to the business. Moreover, the adaptable nature of social media marketing allows small businesses to be more flexible in managing their marketing content. Marketing messages can be updated, changed, supplemented and explained in a way that can never be achieved using traditional channels such as magazines and newspapers (Mohammadian & Mohammadreza, 2012).
The goal of the paper was to examine the different ways through which small businesses benefit from social media marketing. From the analysis, it is evident that social media marketing offers significant competitive advantage to small businesses that allow them to compete with large established players and even multinationals. Although small businesses are not so much interested in competing with big players, social media marketing accords them unique advantages in their respective target markets.Small businesses that have embraced appropriate social media channels for marketing purposes have achieved success in reaching their target customers. Some of the major benefits identified include customer engagement at little or no cost, business visibility through search engine optimization, market penetration, simplicity, flexibility and global reach. For small businesses that have not yet embraced social media marketing, this paper provides evidence that there are tangible benefits arising from the use of social media platforms in marketing. However, the type of platform selected depends on the type of business and the targeted audience. Irrespective of the social media marketing channels selected, small businesses have to be flexible because online platforms are subject to continuous change.
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Mohammadian, M. & Mohammadreza, M. (2012). Identifying the success factors of social media (marketing perspective). International Business and Management, 4(2),p.58.
The Economist.(2012).Word-of-mouse advertising-Bread lines.Retrieved on 16 May 2015 from, http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2012/06/word-mouse-advertising
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