November 12, 2012

Social Media Gives Small Businesses a Competitive Edge


Every day, small business owners are faced with handling an overwhelming amount of operations to run their businesses efficiently and productively. Luckily, social media can help!

More and more small businesses are increasingly adopting social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to generate new business and connect with customers. Facebook alone is the social media favorite of more than nine million small businesses, becoming an essential marketing tool.

According to a study by VerticalResponse, a provider of self-service marketing solutions for small businesses, 66 percent of businesses surveyed report spending more time on social media than they did a year ago, while 43 percent of respondents spend six or more hours per week on social media activities for their business. 

Jeff Cooper, CEO of Expo Logic, a small family-owned business handing online registrations for trade association conventions that was founded in 1979, has changed since it entered the high-tech world. Now, it manages bar code badges and tickets that can be displayed on mobile phones and it relies on tools like Google alerts, CRM, and social media to maintain strong customer relationships.

"We've had some customers for over 20 years," Cooper recently told USA Today. "We heavily rely on that repeat business."



Social media and the Internet are now helping small business owners create closer customer relationships as well as find new customers. Small business owners are under even more pressure to generate new customers, but they should set aside time to maintain existing clients.

But not all small businesses take advantage of the tools for social connections. In New York City, for instance, less than 20 percent of small businesses are utilizing the new technology, according to a Smarter Small Business report by the Center for an Urban Future (CUF). Specifically, the report found that there is a technology gap among neighborhood small businesses.

"It's more important than ever for small-business owners to bridge the gap because they are facing more competition, and this can differentiate them and have them stay relevant with existing customers," Jonathan Bowles, director of CUF told USA Today. “Connecting with customers personally makes a huge difference.”

Nelson, founder and CEO of Ruby Receptionists, relies on social media to tap into her clients. As virtual receptionists for small businesses, she uses Twitter, Facebook and Google Alerts to follow their businesses."They have to understand that we really care about them," she said.

Today, most small businesses are aware of social media, but are slow to use them because they are spread too thin or think it’s a waste of time. Also, many times business owners are not willing to move ahead with social media until they see how it works out for someone else in their industry.

"We live in a relationship economy," commented Scott Steinberg, CEO of business consulting firm TechSavvy Global. “That means it's important for small-business owners to smartly use social media to personalize their business and build trust.”




Edited by Jamie Epstein



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