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Why all SMEs need a social media strategy

Gone are the days of simply deciding on a marketing message and shouting it over and over again as loud as possible. We continually hear about how larger companies have utilised social media to communicate with their customers but conversely, statistics show SMEs are not having an impact in this space; in fact, they are not doing much at all.

social media legal caseYet, it is more important than ever that SMEs get their share of the social media pie, with more than 500 million people on social networking websites like Facebook, they can’t afford not to.

Social media is also the perfect space for SMEs to promote themselves because it is cost effective, simple enough to understand and builds community, which is what small business is all about. With today’s technology, there is no need for costly advertising, just a little bit of social media savvy.

Social media is a phenomenon that is just growing and growing and can’t be ignored any longer. The good news is – implementing a social media strategy if you are an SME is both affordable and achievable. Below are four steps to follow.

Step 1: Listen to what is being said

Completing an online brand audit is the most important step in the process of formulating a social media strategy. You have to know what customers are saying about your brand, your competitor’s brand, and the industry as a whole before simply jumping online and starting a Twitter account and crossing your fingers. What are customers saying about the brand (good and bad), and how are you going to reinforce and build upon the positive and learn from the negative. Are your competitors on social media? What are customers saying about them and can you learn from their mistakes? Finally, what is being said about your brand’s industry is important, can you learn from it?

It is impossible to not complete this first step as it will dictate where to go next. There are many free tools as well as professional ones available to assist with an online brand audit, however utilising a professional social media monitoring tool – such as the world’s leading technology SM2 – will save time and provide a lot more and better organised information.

[Next: Plan your social media strategy]

Step 2: Plan the strategy and your objectives

Look at what other companies have done in the past and research what has worked and what hasn’t so you can learn from the mistakes others have made. Decide what the company’s objective is for engaging in social media.  Hopefully the information from step one will give you some direction of what needs to, or should be, done. One overarching objective should be to build community around your brand as this is what social media is all about. Consider what will inspire or motivate your customers to engage with the company online and how you can make it easy for them to share with others. This is the time to ask questions and get creative! Social media is bursting with creativity and your company should be following suit and thinking outside the square.

Step 3: Engage online

Once you have gathered information and worked out an objective and strategy, start engaging online. The key to this stage is to remember to be flexible. Prepare to adjust your activity for unforeseen circumstances. It is also important to remember that social media is not about marketing campaigns, it is about building relationships with customers, so it is important to remember this in all your actions.

Some ideas are to start a company blog; comment on other blogs; start a Facebook page and engage with customers through social networks; participate in conversation tools like Twitter; contribute to sources like Wikipedia and give incentives for customers to talk about your product, something like coupons, a free service upgrade or even a link back to a blogger can be enough to generate something.

4. Evaluate and Revise

Finally, it is important to review how things are going and how they can be improved. What is working, what needs fixing, where to next. Don’t just do a few months of a campaign and give up. Once your company enters the social media space they need to stay there and continue to engage with customers, not just switch it off.

Chris Tew is the Senior Vice President of Asia Pacific at Alterian.