December 29, 2014
I learned my most important business lesson before turning 10, and that too from the most unexpected source: the local grocery store I frequented for home supplies. The owner was a jolly man who gave me a grand welcome and always had candies to spare.
I loved the guy for his kind nature until one day – after discovering the candy in my pocket– mother told me I was being bribed with candies. I neither understood nor cared. After some years however, the statement made sense. Some more years later, I realized that she was not exactly right.
The humble shopkeeper wasn’t bribing me. He was building a relationship with his customer.
Small business owners all over the world realize the importance of building relationships. They know it’s the repeat customer that matters and doesn’t mind giving a small discount or extra to him. What they don’t realize is how social media can help them in the task. While young entrepreneurs are surely more at ease with the usage of social sites for marketing and promotion, the ones that didn’t grow up with Smartphones are missing out.
And it’s not like the need is not there. Here are few reasons why small businesses should seriously take social media into consideration:
- Competition will only grow fiercer – Whether you are running a local food joint or planning to start a clothing store, there will be competition in the market. Brick and mortar businesses nowadays also have to compete with virtual stores. Even online businesses have to battle for sales with clone ventures. In such a scenario, you must make your presence felt through social media.
- Web is the future – In case you think your business is too small for web, then, think again. According to eMarketer, global Smartphone users will grow to 1.76 billion by the end of 2014. Still not convinced? By 2017, almost one-third of the world population will use Smartphones. Considering search and social media are top priorities of mobile users, small businesses cannot afford to ignore both.
- Opening of global markets – Whether you like it or not, they are coming for your customers. In the next 10 years, you will not only be competing with locals but also with established global names. Governments are counting big on foreign investment, and are taking every possible step to make the market more competitive. So, it’s important for businesses to strengthen their bond with stakeholders.
No matter how convincing and scary, above points need not be your primary motivation to start social media activity. Go for social media because of the advantages it will bring to your business.
Below are some of the social benefits that I have witnessed firsthand and want for small business owners:
- Connection with customers – You give special discounts and festive offers to generate sales and make your customers happy. Social media is the easiest way to do it throughout the year at no or just a small investment. Tan Kuruvilla owns Kavani, an Indian brand that deals in bridal sarees, and uses Facebook to share new creations and designs. The two-year-old company has sold more than 600 custom sarees through Facebook without investing big on traditional advertising.
- Social footprint – Social media is another world in itself. It gives you the opportunity to connect with your friends, customers and followers. Presence on social sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter will create the social footprint of your business that will gain value with time. Nivedha Charles is the founder of Pigtails & Ponys, and manages an online portal to sell hair accessories. The company generates additional traction from its Facebook page. Read brand’s FB success story.
- Search advantage – Who doesn’t like to occupy top Google search results for brand name search? While your website will come up if you have a distinct domain name, business profiles on social media help occupy other places. IT businesses are pretty good at this, and optimize their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles to attract more traffic to their websites.
- Additional sales – Last but not the least, social media can help business owners generate products sales and business leads. There are various brands that are already doing it by running special offers and campaigns on social sites. FabFurnish is a brand that benefits greatly from its social media presence.
For small businesses unwilling to spend a few thousand on a website, social media is the perfect way to get online for free. Facebook business profiles, LinkedIn company pages, and Pinterest boards can help sell products, build brand awareness and generate business leads. And, the best part is, you don’t need to be a geek to manage social media profile for your business.
Small businesses based in developed nations are realizing the potential of social media, and thus make every effort to connect with customers through social sites. It is about time businesses based in developing nations also start taking social media seriously.
While this is my personal opinion, what do think about the potential of social media in context of small businesses? Share your thoughts through comments and let’s start a discussion.
Manish Bhalla is a serial entrepreneur and founder of FATbit Technologies. He has been helping businesses improve their online business, profits and presence for more than a decade. His team of designers and developers is also committed to create Web applications for business owners. Follow FATbit on Twitter for tech news and industry updates.