Small business: Ignore social media at your peril

The development of social media has changed the marketing landscape for small businesses, making it possible to reach potential customers in numbers previously only available to larger organisations with hefty amounts of cash to spend.

 With the proper application of time and imagination, small businesses can now reach countless numbers of potential customers, using the tools like Twitter and Facebook to build genuine engaged relationships with customers online through direct conversations, and the with delivery of valuable, relevant content. Listings with location-based services like Gowalla and Foursquare can also boost footfall through you door.

However, for an SME or sole trader, moving your business into social media requires forethought. A half baked approach to the task can waste your valuable time, and firing endless marketing messages at people will not enamour them to your business.  

A business blog, Twitter feed, Facebook Group or LinkedIn profile provide additional channels through which entrepreneurs can connect with both current and future customers, although it’s important to recognise the process as a two way conversation that needs to be nurtured over time.

People will become quickly disengaged by a constant barrage of sales offers and blatant marketing messages. Instead try and engage them by linking to relevant content that they may find useful, offering customer service through social media channels, or asking for feedback on your products or services.

Social media expert Dan Martin (@Dan_Martin), editor of and a panel moderator at this year’s Social Media World Forum Europe, advises entrepreneurs to ignore social media at their peril. “Small business owners are really missing a trick by failing to leverage the massive potential gains that social media tools can offer,” he says. “Think about who you want to reach and how you plan to engage these people.

“Try and make use of some of the many tools available that allow you to measure the effectiveness of your social media activity, and think about how it will all fit in with your website and the other current components of your marketing strategy before simply diving in.”

This year’s Social Media world Forum Europe will include a free-to-attend Social Media Hub, exploring some of the key platforms in detail. A series of informative sessions will highlight many of the tips and tricks that enable small businesses to understand the basics of social media marketing, using it to engage potential customers.  See the full agenda here.