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How social media is changing the business landscape

In between connecting with our families and sharing photos, we are also using social media to look for good deals and quality conversation from our favourite businesses. 

The popularity of social media amongst Australian consumers is an undisputed fact, with the vast majority of us actively engaging with social media on a regular basis. However, many Australian businesses are lagging behind with only 27 percent of small businesses and 34 percent of medium sized businesses having a social media presence.

Australians access social media first thing in the morning, and throughout the day, with many of us checking our social media profiles as the last thing we do before we go to bed. We use it to keep in touch with friends as well as to network professionally, we even use it when we’re watching television, and amongst all this, we use it to interact with businesses.

In between connecting with our families, sharing photos and arranging what we’re doing on the weekend, we are also looking for good deals and quality conversation from our favourite businesses. We use social media to find things to buy and to find businesses to buy them from. Sometimes we will buy these products online, but other times we’ll use the information garnered from social media to go into a shop in the offline world.

What this means for SMBs in an increasingly online Australia is that now more than ever SMBs need to be savvy in their marketing efforts, making sure that their businesses are part of the conversation.

Communicating as an SMB – What’s changed? 

In short, everything has changed. Social media has opened up a two-way communication stream between businesses and consumers. The way people interact with their friends via social media is typically the way they’re interacting with businesses, particularly SMBs. Consumers are still receiving information from businesses, however they now have the tools at their disposal to reciprocate and initiate a conversation.

Social media has essentially become the new word-of-mouth, with consumers increasingly looking to the various platforms to influence their purchasing decisions. With new social rating and reviews platforms such as Sensis’ partner, Yelp, aiding in this decision-making process, businesses need to be acutely aware of how they are represented in the social web.

While the ability for SMBs to broadcast their marketing messages to their audience has become easier than ever, understanding who their target consumers and key influencers are, and how to adequately engage them, is paramount.

With the advent of social media and social marketing, there is a lot more pressure on the small to medium business owners to develop methods of engaging with their customers. Business owners must be more strategic in thinking about who their target audience are, how often they want to engage with this audience and most importantly, what sort of conversation they’d like to have with their customers. The days of businesses pushing out vertical marketing messages are well and truly over.

Social media and the marketing mix 

The biggest shift since the introduction of social media and its inclusion into the traditional marketing mix is that marketing activity can no longer be static. Businesses now must also become content producers and sources of information. Content needs to be fresh and updated regularly and, most importantly, engaging.

For every piece of marketing activity you develop, you must develop an accompanying lifecycle. Think about how you want to start your conversation, where you want to direct it and how you want to finish it. Thinking about those key things creates a clear path on how you present your content, which will then feed into the strategy for the rest of your marketing mix.

SMBs know their business and their customers – by sticking with the real and natural conversation you would normally have with consumers, your social media activity organically becomes a natural extension of who you are and what your business does. Ensuring that there is a clear, two-way conversation rather than using social media marketing as a broadcast tool, will ensure your businesses success in the social media sphere.

What does the future hold? 

Aside from the natural growth of existing social media platforms and the increasing level of social media take-up, what we’re beginning to see in the social media landscape is a number of niche social media channels starting to emerge.

While Facebook is incredibly dominant in terms of pure usage statistics and we’ve seen the power of Twitter as a business tool, we’re beginning to see the rise of social platforms such as Pinterest which has burst onto the scene and engaged a high level of usage from a relatively targeted user group.

Increasingly, local businesses will be looking for support to manage their social presence as the take-up rate increases among SMBs. Local businesses will look to professionals for assistance in producing content, keeping the content fresh and relevant, and doing that across multiple platforms in real time.

Digital marketing specialists such as Sensis’ Social Solution will rise in popularity; assisting local businesses in managing their multi-faceted presence, and ensuring that these SMBs aren’t overwhelmed in the process.

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Simon Betschel

Simon Betschel

Simon Betschel is GM, Emerging Business & Innovation, Sensis Pty Ltd

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