A common piece of marketing advice that has been repeated over the years is “Find a need and fill it.” The advice has been so valuable because it reminds business owners that there is always a competitive advantage to be found when there is an unmet need, and there are always unmet needs. It may seem that there are few needs left to be filled in the realm of social media marketing, especially with the large-scale adoption of social media by the general public and companies, but here are two statistics to consider. The Detroit University Press released a study on social media that showed that 90 percent of global executives felt that social media was extremely important now or would be within the next year. However, according to an analysis of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, more than two-thirds of them have no presence on social media at all. There is a considerable lack of executive voices on social media and this presents unique opportunities for small business owners who are willing to put themselves on social media.
The first thing that small business owners need to understand is why all CEOs should be using social media to connect with customers and stakeholders. An IBM study of more than 1,000 global executives said that within the next five years, the percentage of global CEOs on social media will go from 26 percent to more than 57 percent. The reason is that business owners who can connect with suppliers, customers, and employees more efficiently are going to be better and more agile in the marketplace.
“CEOs who shun social media risk losing touch with some of their most lucrative customers, prospects and influencers.” says Josh James, founder and CEO of Domo in an article on Forbes.
Though there is a clear advantage for all business owners to make these sort of connections, it’s harder for larger organizations to make these changes. It’s similar to how it takes longer for large ship to make a turn than for a smaller ship. Small business owners who start using social media connections on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to their competitive advantage now (e.g. securing lower prices from suppliers or reaching new audiences with marketing), will be able to better position themselves before the larger company CEOs can catch up.
With so much potential value on social media for small business owners, it’s vital to see what prevents many executives from taking advantage of these tools. There are a lot of reasons why many executives choose not to use social media professionally, but these reasons are easily remedied. For example, many are concerned about being exposed to negative comments. While this will almost certainly happen (every business has detractors), negative comments are a chances to win back angry customers. And the worse problems are avoidable. Users who routinely post negative comments can be blocked and comments with vulgar and profane language can be prevented using automated filters on some platforms like Facebook. Most business owners will find that their customers appreciate the chance to talk to the proprietor of their favorite shop.
Another chief concern is that being on social media is time consuming, especially for executives who are already inundated with emails, letters, and phone calls. However, just because the executive is putting their name on the page, it doesn’t mean that the day-to-day posts and monitoring can’t be outsourced, much like many executives already do for their corporate pages. The point is that small business owners can find a way to get their voice heard social media and connect with stakeholders without it hurting their productivity.
Overall, the good outweighs the bad and the cost of action is far less than the cost of inaction. Establishing a strong rapport with customers has always been one of the keys to small business success. By putting themselves on social media, business owners can talk to their customers through their platform of choice. And establishing good relationships with vendors, suppliers, and distributors are equally useful to the savvy business owners. The success of small business is built on relationships, and social media is the ultimate relationship-building tool, business owners seeking to establish themselves need to make sure it’s a tool they keep in their marketing toolbox.