It probably won’t come as a shock that the latest MYOB Business Monitor findings say half of all New Zealand small to medium enterprises (SMEs) now have an online business presence.
The results show 47 per cent reported having an online presence for their business in March 2015. What may surprise you, however, is the low level of the reported use of social media for business - just 23 per cent in the survey.
If you’re a business owner you probably know the line by now: in order to effectively reach and influence your customers, you have to be in the same online places they are.
With 2.4 million users in New Zealand, Facebook is a fairly obvious starting point for creating an online brand presence. So why do only 16 percent of New Zealand SMEs use the site for business, according to the Business Monitor?
I would be confident in saying that small business owners are already stretched enough without investing more of their time in something they’re not seeing tangible or immediate results from.
Recent Salesforce research backs this up. The research found that small business owners are not seeing value from their efforts when it comes to using social media for business.
Focus on creating communities – not just a newsletter
The majority of Business Monitor respondents that use social media (58 percent) still rank interaction with customers as the best thing about having a business social media presence.
Yet the Salesforce research suggests that most small business owners are using their social media platforms to blast company news and for marketing promotions.
Jostling for space and shouting to be heard in a crowded space is exhausting, especially when you’re starting from scratch.
Thinking about your Facebook wall as a catalogue rather than a two-way networking opportunity is likely to net you the same reaction and results as both would in real life.
Rather, work on authentically building your community by becoming a trusted authority and go-to destination for advice on your area of expertise – your product and your service.
Further, using existing online forums, chat and feedback tools creates networking opportunities for you and your business and allows you to get your brand out there.
You can participate within established communities to build your brand and customer base as well as use tools on your own website to create a community with your existing customers.
Treat the forum like you would a business event or party. Talk, network and contribute. Just like real-life, it’s a two-way street and you have to listen to be heard.
Don’t just blast your marketing messages, create opportunities for social communities with your clients by using tools like Zendesk.com, groovehq.com. yammer.com, LeanEngage.com and Uservoice.com.
It’s personal, whether you like it or not
Your company might currently consist of a team of 15 or it could just be you. Either way, the nature of ‘brand’ is changing. It’s increasingly more personal.
Consumers want to get to know your brand. They want to know who works there and what you stand for. You can make the introduction and the subsequent relationship building easier by increasing your transparency and making your interactions more personable.
Similarly, up until about five years ago, the majority of companies were faceless logos. The only recourse if you had an issue might have been to send a letter attention: Department of Complaints.
Now you can have a public conversation with someone ‘real’. The way that the company handles grievances can really shape public perception.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel
While being original is certainly a good thing and likely differentiates you from your competition, investing huge amounts of time in starting from scratch when it comes to social media is unnecessary.
Whether you want to know how to just get started, right through to learning how to create in-depth measurement analytics, there are endless tools, blog posts and advice out there for small businesses.
At the end of the day though, nothing beats hands on experience.
Get started. Ask for advice from businesses and people you admire on social media. Test. Learn. Be yourself (or be the best version of your brand self).
You’ll soon start to realise what kind of content your community likes and responds to when your followers and engagement starts rising.
By Simon Raik-Allen - CTO, MYOB