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Social commerce, the name given to driving sales through activity on social networks is estimated to grow to $30 billion globally by 2015, up from $15 billion in 2013.

Australians are increasingly reliant on the internet, 79% go online every day and nearly two thirds of all Australians now use social media.

Social media is an increasingly important way for consumers to search for products, to obtain recommendations on products and to interact with businesses.

According to the latest Yellow Social Media Report one in four consumers (25%) indicated they use social media to follow or to find out about brands or businesses, while one in five (20%) use it to research product or services their interested in buying. Around 15% use social media to get offers or promotions.

Despite over two thirds of Australians using social media, only 30% of Australian small businesses are using social media according to the Yellow Social Media Report, commissioned by Sensis and AIMIA. Compare this to 47% for medium businesses and 79% for large businesses.

This raises the question: is small businesses missing revenue opportunities by lagging behind in social commerce?

It would seem so based on the findings from a recent report by MYOB based on a survey of SMEs. The report found social savvy SMEs were more likely to see an increase in their revenue with 28% of SMEs using social media reporting an increase in revenue compared to an average of 18% across all SMEs.

With 55% of Australian consumers using the internet to research their purchases even if they purchase online why is small business still not selling online.

Based on the latest ABS statistics small business is still moving slowly with less than half (41%) having an online presence and only 27.8% accepting orders online. Compare this to 97% of big business with an online presence and 40% taking orders.

So why is small business not making the revenue potential of social commerce and selling online?

Social media is time consuming, and small business owners may struggle to spend the time on managing social media given all the other conflicting calls on their time while running a business. This is shown by 82% of small business accounts are run by the owner, and only 18% of small businesses update their social media every day compared to 68% for large businesses.

Another possible reason is the challenge of keeping up with new technology and the rapidly changing digital world. It’s the old saying “you don’t know what you don’t know “, and if you’re busy running a business, it is difficult to know where to start.

Here are 5 simple things that time poor small business owners can do to get started with social commerce.

  • If you are not online yet, get an online presence. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend thousands of dollars to get a website. You can get a very basic website for free using blog tools like WordPress or Blogger. Or many successful small businesses have started from selling on Facebook.
  • Focus one or two social media channels. Don’t spread yourself too thinly, as social media is time consuming. Choose carefully which channels to focus on based on whether your customers use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. If using Facebook, you’ll need to create a page for your business.
  • As well responding to customer questions or comments, be proactive and personalise your content. Increasingly people are looking for quality information before they purchase. Flaunt your good stuff, be creative, and don’t be afraid to tell stories that are interesting whenever you can about the people or about the business.  The other benefit of good content is that it is important input into how Google calculates how highly you appear in search results.
  • If you can start selling online your products or services. The value of online orders in Australia has grown 26% since 2010/11 to be worth $237 billion a year.  There has been a lot of innovation in the last year with solutions making it inexpensive and easy for non technical sellers to get started selling from a website, blog or via social media.
  • Measure and analyse your results, calculate your return on investment (ROI). One of the beauties of digital marketing is that a lot of it is measurable. Try the excellent free tool Google Analytics to traffic the sources of your visitors and sales conversions.

Geoff Austin is the Marketing Director at online payments start-up Selz.com in Sydney. Selz make it easy for non technical people to sell online what they create and get paid. Geoff brings with him a passion for digital marketing, start-ups, and analytics. In his downtime he is chauffer to his twin daughters or walking the dog.

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