Why Social is an SMEs Greatest Marketing Tool, and How to Use it

In case you hadn't noticed, we live in an increasingly shrinking and interconnected global space. While this is daunting in some respects, it has leveled the playing field for small businesses and enabled SMEs to compete more aggressively with leading brands for a viable market share.

At the heart of this evolution is technological advancement and innovation, from brands such as Parcel2Go (who have reduced the cost of sending international shipments) to the delivery of real-time marketing platforms that empower brands of all sizes to target a global audience of consumers.

The Power of Social and How to Leverage This

These platforms are found in the vast and constantly evolving social space, where outlets such as Facebook provide firms with increasingly innovative and competitively priced marketing tools. They also allow firms to instantly access the immense power (and more importantly, reach) of social media, which connects them to a global pool of customers and potential clients.

The key for SMEs is to learn how to leverage these social platforms successfully, while also remaining true to their core values and unique brand identity. Here are three steps to help you achieve this: -

Create an Integrated Social Presence that Leverages Relevant Channels

In the retail sector, it is now believed that 91% of brands leverage two or more social channels simultaneously. This highlights the importance of using social media in a targeted manner, as you look to create an integrated presence that effectively reaches relevant consumer segments.

After all, if the only requirement was to reach as large an audience as possible, your brand could simply market itself through Facebook (which now has a user-base in excess of one billion users across the globe).

This is not enough, however, so you must instead identify specific consumer groups that you would like to target through social media and determine which channels they are most likely to use. Despite constantly changing demographic shifts, 71% of Pinterest's users are female, for example, making this site ideal for small bridal brands and boutiques. In contrast, LinkedIn retain a predominantly professional audience, so this is a crucial channel for B2B firms and corporate service providers.

Regardless of your brand identity or its nature, however, the key to successful social engagement relies on using the medium strategically. This means targeting individual segments with specific campaigns, and tailoring your social presence in line with your consumer base and their behaviours.

Integrate your Social and Blogging Platforms

Historically, social media and blogging are disciplines that have been considered as entirely separate entities. They are also renowned as two of the most effective and widely-used content marketing strategies in the modern age, with 64% and 65% of today's marketers respectively using them on a regular basis.

Given this and the fact that boundaries between separate marketing techniques are becoming increasingly blurred, these two entities are longer mutually exclusive. In fact, they can now be integrated to enhance the impact and reach of your marketing campaigns, which in turn delivers huge cost benefits to SMEs.

The cultivation of an insightful company blog allows you to establish your brand as thought leader, for example, while also creating an authoritative and engaging voice for your commercial messaging. Each individual piece of content can also add depth and detail to your social profile, while channels such as Facebook provide the ideal medium for promoting your blog and driving further (and ongoing) customer engagement.

In practical terms, you can integrate these platforms by using clearly defined and actionable (or more specifically, clickable) icons that empower readers to socially share blog posts. You should also take steps to encourage and actively respond to comments, as this adds to the appeal of your content and is an often overlooked search engine ranking metric.

Use Rich Media, and more Pointedly Video, to Drive your Social Campaigns

YouTube is an often overlooked social talent, but it is one that remains the focal point of video marketing campaigns. Like Facebook, it also has more than one billion unique users, for example, while it's growing popularity has also influenced other channels to place a greater emphasis on video interaction. Facebook itself now reports a daily average of eight billion video views, for example, marking this is an increasingly viable and cost-effective way of engaging customers.

This is music to the ears of SMEs and their owners, who can now leverage video content and other, rich media elements to drive their social campaigns and compete more tenaciously with larger brands.

So what types of video content work well within the social space? Video-on-demand (VOD) is a good example, as this provides a digital and affordable advertising channel that delivers a far greater ROI than television or radio. Videos can be produced cheaply and hosted on YouTube, for example before being embedded on your brand's website and other social channels such as Facebook to drive a higher number of views and greater engagement levels.

There are other examples too, including video testimonials and the development of brand or product narratives that are published online. These entities serve to humanise your brand's social identity, which is central to building trust with customers and cultivating the type of loyalty that underpins sustained SME success.

Regardless of how you choose to leverage the power of video, however, just be sure to manage this strategically while also using other examples of rich media (such as imagery and graphical elements) to engage customers on a deeper level.

Hopefully, these ideas will help you to understand and ultimately leverage the true power of social media, so that you can effectively market your small business in a cost-effective and competitive manner.

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