Less than a year ago, I presented to a group of lawyers at the Boston Bar Association about the nuts and bolts of Social Media and why it makes good sense to get in on it. Part of my presentation was addressed to potential objections that might be raised by attorneys when considering whether to spend any of their most precious asset – time – engaged in networking online. One of those ostensibly reasonable objections was “gee, only the big guys, like Coca Cola, Disney and Best Buy, are hanging out online. My small business clients are still perusing traditional media outlets for their own promotion, information retrieval and vendor vetting efforts.”
Well, if American Express is to be believed, the facts behind this objection are rapidly shifting and making the objection most hollow: American Express Open reports in the Business Wire that results from its semi annual small business survey show that small business use of social media has increased four-fold in the last year. The release does not solely address social media use by small business – the survey generally examined how small business owners are viewing the economy and whether they are poised to take advantage of potential growth opportunities in teh coming year. With respect to social media, the survey results show that:
Business owners are also increasingly tapping into social media to reach customers and prospects. Four-in-ten now indicate they use at least one social media platform; Facebook is by far the most popular platform, with 27% of relevant businesses on board. By comparison, only one-in-ten business owners a year ago were using online social networking to market their businesses.
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The apparent exponential growth in the use of social media by business owners is rooted in the need to drive demand. When asked about the primary benefit of using social media for their businesses, nearly four-in-ten entrepreneurs (39%) said it increases the exposure of their business.
Social media is a lower cost marketing channel through which business owners can talk directly to consumers, who say they’re more than willing to listen when it comes to special promotions and deals. In fact, consumers said they were most interested in hearing about small business loyalty programs (59%), followed by free trials (49%), rewards or incentive programs (44%) and invitations to new product launches or special shopping days (39%).
“For business owners, social media ultimately should be a two way street. It’s about business owners connecting with customers and customers connecting with businesses,” Sobbott added. “More than 10% of consumers we surveyed reported posting a review of a small business through social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, and of these posts, two-thirds say the reviews have been positive.”
Now, it probably doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if small business owners understand the value of and are implementing social media programs in crazy growth numbers, small business owners also might recognize the value of turning to online resources for finding and connecting with their own vendors and service providers.
Will you, the lawyer or business professional, already be there to welcome such connection possibilities with open arms? Or are you waiting until you represent a one in ten business that hasn’t yet filled out your social media profile?