SMBs Unlock the Value of Mobile Social Outreach
Social media outreach may not yet be completely synonymous with small business marketing, but it’s getting close. Ninety percent of small business owners now dedicate time to social media outreach, and 74 percent believe online networking is at least as valuable as face-to-face marketing, according to a new study conducted by BIA/Kelsey on behalf of SMB digital community Manta. Close to 50 percent of entrepreneurs surveyed cite gaining and targeting prospective customers as the greatest benefit of social networking, and 78 percent of respondents credit online outreach for at least a quarter of all new customers acquired this year.
“As 97 percent of consumers use the Internet to research products or services in their local area, and those searches regularly include company name, product or service, or business owner, it is critical small businesses build awareness of themselves and their company online,” said BIA/Kelsey program director Jed Williams.
But social networking remains a challenging, often frustrating experience: Fifty-eight percent of small businesses said they struggle to find value in Facebook’s promotional capabilities or don’t have a Facebook page at all. Platforms like Pinterest and Groupon are even more problematic for SMBs, which may explain why almost 25 percent of respondents say their company website continues to drive the majority of their business.
Small businesses flummoxed by just how and where social networking fits into the big picture must understand that Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, and Pinterest are not just desktop platforms—they’re mobile platforms as well, and conceptualizing how those services can be used to reach a customer segment in motion can help business owners unlock the value in social outreach. Facebook pages and Twitter feeds don’t simply live on your customers’ PCs and Macs: They extend to their smartphones and tablets as well, and because consumers carry those devices with them wherever they go, you can use those social services to drive impulse behaviors—for example, posting time-sensitive business information and updates, like lunch specials and flash deals.
Still struggling to grasp mobile social networking’s value as a marketing tool? Think of how Twitter has galvanized the food truck segment—without it, vendors would have no means to update their current location in real time. Or consider that mobile devices now account for one-third of Groupon’s North American transactions, up 35 percent year-over-year. In May, Groupon founder and CEO Andrew Mason told investors that the site’s mobile shoppers spend about twice as much as their desktop counterparts. That’s because mobile shoppers are hungry or bored at that particular moment in time—small businesses that can satisfy those urges (and that can communicate that information to customers when it matters most) will thrive.
Even if your small business is active on Facebook, catering to a mobile demographic is paramount. Facebook now boasts 955 million monthly active users worldwide, and 59 percent of that audience accesses the platform via mobile device. Moreover, the number of Facebook users who accessed the site exclusively via mobile grew to 102 million in the second quarter of 2012, a 23 percent quarter-over-quarter increase. That means roughly 20 percent of Facebook mobile users never even access the desktop site. Keeping up with them is simply keeping up with the times.
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