Sobering Light For Social Media & Small Business
Trends are now showing that the honeymoon phase of social media appears to be waning. I, for one, am delighted. The effort to demystify the dreamy potential locked within social media’s nucleus is occasionally met with deaf ears when attempting to help businesses strategically step into the social space. And now as statistics point out many small business owners are coming to terms with the fact that social media might not be quite the shiny object as once imagined, perhaps they can get down to the business of successfully using social media at all.
In the recent fourth installment of the Network Solutions Small Business Success Index study, we learn how the down-turned economy is having a predictable effect on the health of small business. Highlighted in a summary of the study’s data by Susan Wade, are trends showing a more sober view of social media among business owners. Don’t confuse this sober view with a sudden realization that social media isn’t really “all that.” Far from the case, it actually seems that while fewer businesses are diving into the social media pool, those that have jumped in are finding a good deal of value. And with fewer small businesses feeling able to tackle social media at all, it is leaving the field more open for those taking the chance.
This spells good things for those willing to make the effort. As businesses learn the ropes they are tightening the job description they assign to social media and allowing it to succeed within more realistic expectation on tasks and on time.
From the study:
65 percent [of businesses surveyed] say they’ve successfully used social media to stay engaged with current customers, up from 46 percent in December.
64 percent have developed a greater awareness of their company compared to 52 percent last year… They’re also more optimistic about the prognosis for the next 12 months. More than half (57 percent) predict they’ll make a profit from their efforts during that time.
These might look like modest indicators of grand success, but when one considers at this time that many more businesses fly into social media blindly than do so with a solid strategic plan, that numbers continue to trend up is a good sign overall. Seeing social media aid in customer interaction and receive a more realistic evaluation period (12 months) to bring about a profitable return is about the best news this digital darling could hope to see documented.
Another set of statistics worth calling out:
43 percent feel [social media] takes up more of their time to manage than they expected. And 29 percent say it opens up another can of worms, giving people a chance to criticize the company in a public forum.
These are probably the most obvious “necessary evils” related to social media overall. Yet, these will also likely lead to a continued thinning of the pack in the race for customer’s attention and loyalty within the social media universe.
If there is any advice to take out of this study it is that small businesses still owe it to themselves to venture into social media wisely, and with a solid and measurable plan. The realistic upsides can improve a business’s position and keep them in front of customers as technology continues to mature.