Monday, 29 March 2010

Guest Blog: Small Business & Social Media: Why Relevancy & Resource Are No Longer An Excuse

One of the biggest objections to social media raised by the managers of SMEs (small and medium enterprises) is that it isn’t relevant to their business. This crops up time and time again whether the business in question is consumer or trade facing, but my belief is that this is driven by a lack of understanding of what social media is and what power it has, rather than simply ignorance. There is a belief among SMEs that you need the PR budget of Coke and the creative inspiration of Compare The Market in order to delve into social media. But this simply isn’t true.

A recent study of over 1700 small business decision makers by leading business directory and network revealed some interesting trends in the use of digital media by SMEs. All of the businesses surveyed used at least one social media resource in a business context, and the results suggested that once a small businesses does use digital media, such is the impact that the average number of social media channels used is about six different sources. The most common were webinars/podcasts, online ratings/review services, company or product-specific profiles on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, company blogs and forums.

For SMEs there is, without question, a resource issue. A company such as Starbucks, which is very big on digital media, uses a dozen different channels but has a social media team of six people. This is obviously not achievable in a small business, but that should not stop an SME getting involved, as the advantages of doing so can be considerable and lasting.

So where to start? A company blog is a great way to launch into the social media space, but it does need upkeep. Writing articles about the business’ particular sector and fields of interest establishes credibility, communicates knowledge and trust, and is great for brand positioning. A blog is very often also used as the hub of any other social media activity, providing content for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn campaigns, for example. Using Twitter in conjunction with a blog is a fantastic way of spreading content further and wider, and engaging with people who could turn out to be customers, clients, suppliers or quite simply, great people to know and be associated with. And the beauty of Twitter is that it really doesn’t need to draw too heavily on company resources.

Facebook and LinkedIn are the other two big players in the social networking arena, with both growing very fast and both providing options to pull together a complete strategy by linking with a blog and/or Twitter. Facebook is more of a promotional tool, and LinkedIn more of a professional networking tool, but each is valuable in its own right. As I have said, however, even monitoring the web for corporate news and proactively engaging in forums and online review sites can have big benefits.

The key is simply not to be afraid or daunted. Yes, it’s very new and no, you may not understand all the different elements at first. But like it or not, social media is here to stay and all SME owners will need to start engaging with it at some stage. So work out what are the best tools for your small business based on the channels in question and the resources you have available, develop a cohesive strategy and then dive in!

Paul Sutton is a Social & Digital Media Consultant with over 14 years’ experience in PR and marketing communications. Fascinated by the psychological and cultural impact of digital media and the web, he has a passion for online communications, social media, inbound marketing and the ongoing convergence between PR and the web.
For more from Paul, visit his blog at or contact him on Twitter at


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