There’s an old joke about a man driving lost in the Irish countryside who stops and asks a passer-by for directions: “if I was going there I wouldn’t start from here” the traveller is told.
Some interesting new research shows that Australian Small-to-Medium-Sized Businesses (SMBs) are taking the wrong route to their social media destination and aren’t even sure how to know when they get there.
Small businesses are busy grappling with the opportunities that social media obviously offers, but a gap in understanding about what those opportunities are can mean that not only are those opportunities being missed, but valuable time and resources might be wasted chasing a misunderstanding of its allure.
This blog series will aim to address that knowledge gap and spell out just what the opportunity is and how it can be seized.
Research among SMBs conducted by Smartcompany and commissioned by salesforce.com has shown that a clear knowledge gap exists among SMBs when it comes to social media and how it can help their business. While 74 per cent of respondents said they were using social media in their business, the vast majority of use seems to be in the areas of company news (77 per cent) and for marketing and promotions (73 per cent).
Building communities and establishing thought leadership - roles at which social media performs far better - were activities for only 55 per cent and 52 per cent of use respectively.
Here is where the gap is - most social media effort is being invested in the wrong areas. Social media can disseminate company news and marketing information of course, but it is no where near as effective at that as it is for community building and thought leadership - this is where social media’s power really lies.
As a result, SMBs don’t feel they are getting the kind of value from their efforts for which they’d hoped. Only 41 per cent said they felt they were getting a return on those efforts; moreover 20 per cent confessed to not even being sure if they received a return or not. This second fact is not surprising. When quizzed on measurement, 53 per cent said they did not actively measure for return on their efforts - 45 per cent of those said it was because they didn’t have adequate resources. What was more concerning still was that 26 per cent of those didn’t feel they even needed to perform measurement at all.
The general sense of the report is that there is uncertainty as to how to use social media to reach their destination, or how to know when they’ve arrived. The biggest mistake businesses of all sizes make with social media is to misunderstand what it is for and therefore how to leverage and measure it. This series will fill this gap by establishing three key aspects of social media:
While SMBs surveyed in the Smartcompany research seem unsure how to measure social media success, the indicators they suspect they should be measuring include:
The key disconnect here is that if these are the outcomes SMBs want from their social media efforts, investing the bulk of their social media efforts into publishing “company news” and “marketing and promotions” is probably not the way to achieve them.
What is most startling of all is that when asked what sources of information they themselves trust the most in their own buying decisions, SMBs rate “peers”, “industry experts”, “friends and family” and “product reviews” most highly. Therefore - to best influence their customers’ buying decisions, they need to focus on this reality - we don’t trust “company news” or “marketing and promotions”.
As this series of blog posts evolves, we’ll address the best strategies and tactics to use social media to create “customer advocacy” - the most powerful weapon known to marketers. Look out for part two next week. In the meantime, learn more about the research by downloading the report here:
Gareth is a self-employed senior PR professional consulting in the use of Social Media in B2B corporate communications, under the banner of his consultancy Artechulate. Gareth has six years' corporate B2B social communications experience and in total, 20 year's public relations experience for brands such as salesforce.com, Oracle, VMware, Dell, Toshiba, AOL, Yahoo!, EMC, BenQ, Panasonic, SAP, BT in both Australia and the UK and working both in-house and agency-side.