We’ve all seen it before. You try to find information on a local business through social media, only to find a few accounts frozen in time. Even worse, sometimes the business doesn’t have social media accounts at all. After a routine Google search for at least a webpage belonging to the business, you come back empty handed and decide to move on.
This scenario may be more common than you think. According to a 2015 study from Clutch, nearly half of small businesses do not actively use social media. A quarter of businesses surveys even stated that they won’t be using social media in the future.
As communications professionals, we know those small businesses without social media are missing a key opportunity. But why exactly is social media a necessity for every business of every size? Here are the top three benefits of having a robust social media presence:
A World of Glorious Market Data
You know what people do on social media – they share (and sometimes overshare) their lives! As a business owner, this offers you a window into what their needs as customers are. You can learn a lot by visiting the profiles of the people who have followed your business on social. Read a few of their tweets, roll through a few of their Facebook photo albums, and see what they’ve pinned. Of course, this approach yields only qualitative results. Useful – but not quite as powerful as the truths their data can untangle. With plenty of free analytics tools available, there are many of options for interpreting this data. Both Twitter and Facebook offer limited but free analytics for basic accounts. On top of that, free tools like Iconosquare for Instagram and Google Analytics can provide data on other platforms that don’t have sufficient native offerings.
ALMOST Free Exposure
Do you want free publicity for your small business’ announcements? Of course you do! There are plenty of options out there to avoid the pay-to-play model of social media. You can get the word out to your customers about promotions, events, and other important happenings for only the cost of time. More importantly, social media gives you a chance to get the image of your business out there in the world – the image that YOU want for the brand. Social media planning tools Buffer and Hootsuite both offer limited access for free accounts. These make it easy for you to schedule any announcements your followers should know about ahead of time.
Connecting with Customers as Actual Human Beings
Depending on the nature of the business, you may never even meet some of your best customers. Even if your business involves a lot of face-to-face interaction, there is still probably a level of connection absent in transactions between you and your customers. Luckily, we have a little thing called “the internet” to bridge that gap. Through Facebook, Twitter, or any network where your followers’ hangout, you can make a personal connection between you and your customers. This very real, human connection does wonders for attracting and keeping patrons of your business. Making this connection can take many forms, from simply “liking” a customer’s feedback on your page to celebrating one of your employees’ accomplishments.
With these three perks, one thing becomes clear: Having a social media presence is a necessity, not a luxury. As a small business, avoiding it is at best leaving money on the table and at worst compromising the survival of the operation.