Social media channels are great platforms for small business advertising – they’re easy to set up and don’t have to break the bank. However, a few trends suggest that smaller brands aren’t making the most of these platforms. Let’s see how we can improve.
3 Digital Trends from the Small Business Sector
Each quarter, social marketing app Ripl conducts a U.S. Small Business Social Media Marketing Research survey to learn about small business trends, and get a sense of the bigger picture for this segment of the marketing industry.
According to the 2015 U.S. Census, the country has more than 30 million small businesses, and the vast majority of them employ fewer than 10 people. Devices and social media have made it easier for these brands to market themselves, advertise and develop relationships with customers new and old.
For Q3 2017, Ripl dove into this shift, and examined more than 345 survey responses from local businesses, nonprofits, professional services, online businesses and others, most of whom are running the marketing efforts for organizations with 10 or fewer employees.
Three major trends emerged from the responses, as well as the finding that small businesses favor digital strategies as well as marketing activities directly in their control.
1. Attracting New Customers is Prioritized Over Keeping Existing Ones
Small businesses put far more emphasis on getting new customers than maintaining relationships with the ones they already have. While 92 percent focus on bringing in new customers as their top goal, only 8 percent make that commitment to existing customers (when Ripl asked them to choose between the two).
The thing is, that focus seems misplaced. It’s generally accepted that customer acquisition is far more expensive than customer retention in the long run, so why would these small businesses take that risk? Ripl speculates that small business either don’t know about the cost differences, or simply see more customers as the answer to their problems.
2. Social Media is the Preferred Tool for Consumer Communication
Social media is the clear winner in terms of preferred methods for communicating with customers, specifically Facebook and Instagram. Email comes in next, though only 65 percent prefers it, compared with Facebook’s 98 percent.
Facebook Messenger and text messaging are top customer communication choices for approximately 40 percent of small businesses. Interestingly, the more traditional phone call remains just as popular at exactly 40 percent.
Ripl wasn’t surprised by the preference for social media, as it’s relatively simple for new and small businesses to get set up on the platforms. Further, tools for direct connection with consumers are built into the systems. Email was also an expected favorite, since it’s such a universally used method.
Interestingly, according to reporting from eMarketer, the communications with consumers on these channels are often one-sided. Plenty of people leave ratings and reviews of small businesses on platforms like Facebook, yet about half of U.S. small and medium businesses don’t consider this feedback critical to their business.
However, as searches for “reviews” has inched up in recent years, those organizations may want to reconsider.
Text messages and phone calls, Ripl speculates, have a personal nature that could appeal to small businesses, and can be effective – the vast majority of text messages are read within just a few minutes.
3. Digital Advertising Now Outweighs Offline Analog Advertising
In 2017, Ripl began asking how much participants spend on various marketing efforts, and discovered a shift to software tools and digital advertising. In the Q3 survey, participants reported upping digital marketing spend and decreasing analog efforts.
More than 75 percent of participating small businesses spend up to $500 each month on digital marketing tools, such as software or apps. Almost 70 percent of participating small businesses spend up to $500 each month on online advertising on Facebook, Google or some other platform.
At the same time, well over half of participating small businesses spend no money on analog methods, such as print, broadcast, mailings and events.
Social Media Advertising for Small Businesses
Whether you’re trying to bring in new customers, maintain relationships with your existing ones or both as a small business, social media is likely the route you’ve chosen. From ads to direct communication, these increasingly popular channels provide ways for brands to become established and interact with users in a range of ways.
Forbes offers 12 ways for small businesses to improve their social media presence, including:
- Goal identification.
- Selecting the best networks for you.
- Content calendars.
- Internal management.
- Monitoring channels.
Sprout Social highlights the difference between having a social media presence and having an effective social media presence, and that the latter is not always easy when running a small business. The section on value and cost may be of particular interest to advertisers, covering budgets, value and ROI.
Last December we discussed Social Media, E-Commerce and the Customers’ Path to Purchase. For advertisers, we focused on the top social e-commerce retail categories (fashion and food), emphasizing the importance of the overall experience your ad content creates, from influencers to aesthetics.
Social media is on track to become one of the most important aspects of small business marketing and advertising. Keep focusing on existing customers, the feedback they provide and the experience you create, and you can make the best of current trends in the social media ad space.