Proactive change is a precursor to growth. But forced change, which has been a constant over the last couple of years, is a challenge that tests perseverance, builds resilience and breeds perspective. Small business owners know this all too well.
Small businesses, which account for 99% of businesses and employ 47% of workers in the US, were hit particularly hard by the pandemic—mom-and-pop shops closed their doors, employees were let go and suppliers halted shipments. But from hardship came new opportunities for entrepreneurs to make a move and form new businesses.
As small business owners navigate change and recovery in the wake of the pandemic, social media will continue to be a key element in accelerating their organizations’ future growth. In this article, we’ll walk through four ways social can revitalize small business competition and positively influence SMBs’ bottom lines.
1. Use social data for more than marketing
Small business owners are inherently resilient. On average, small businesses have about 10 total employees, but roughly 25.7 million small businesses in the US have no staff members at all. It’s common that business owners operate every department—marketing, sales, product, customer service and more.
Owning a small business for me is accounting, photography, content, social media management, cleaning, website design, graphic design, merch creation, & building product.
I want you all to know how much love goes into what you see in an end product ❤️❤️
— 𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐚 𝐂𝐨𝐱 (@_mymarina_) February 1, 2021
According to the Sprout Social Index™, 45% of SMB marketers say data from social is viewed as strictly a marketing team resource in their organization. But social data is a powerful tool that can strengthen each area of your business and help resource-strapped SMBs flourish.
SMB marketers identified budget, market research and audience research as the top three resources they need to achieve their goals. Social can be a time and cost-efficient channel for sizing up your industry and customer base, particularly for budget-constrained small businesses. It’s rich in business intelligence, from emerging trends to competitor and audience insights.
Small businesses can use these insights to:
- Cater to your audience’s interests or needs.
- Determine which products to build a campaign around.
- Understand which channels customers prefer and use most.
- Learn what consumers like or prefer about your competition.
- Develop new, in-demand products.
Beyond analytics and social listening data, valuable insights can come directly from your customers—all you have to do is ask. Follow Small Packages’ lead—use polls and community questions in social posts to solicit feedback and make customer-driven business moves.
2. Connect with advocates to accelerate small business growth strategies
Consumers are eager to show their support for small and local businesses that have weathered a turbulent economic climate. Using Sprout’s social listening tool, we found that between January 1, 2021, and August 31, 2021, more than 1.5 million Tweets from just over 1 million unique authors contained the words “help” or “support” in relation to small businesses.
For the 61% of SMB marketers whose primary goal is to increase brand awareness, there’s a massive opportunity to reach those consumers showing interest in shopping small. Take advantage of the momentum on social by:
- Using social listening to identify opportunities to plug your business and network with other small business owners.
- Asking your community, fans and social users at large to support your business. Something as simple as a Retweet can go a long way for brand awareness.
I started my small business🍓 and I love what I do, I’m so grateful for the support I get💗A simple RT or LIKE would mean so much to me ! Follow my ig @arlethesweets pic.twitter.com/0jvhtjSzjH
— Arlethe (@_arletheh) July 15, 2020
- Sharing your business’ story—inspirations, struggles, victories, future ambitions and other points that will encourage emotional connections with your audience.
- Incorporating relevant hashtags in your content to crystalize your SMB identity.
3. Ride the social commerce wave
Social influences purchasing decisions now more than ever, especially as social commerce becomes an integral part of business strategies for organizations big and small.
Social commerce is the buying and selling of goods or services directly within a social media platform. This model enables customers to complete the full buyer journey, from discovery to purchase, without leaving their preferred apps.
The majority of SMB marketers (93%) agree or strongly agree that investing in social commerce is necessary for businesses to achieve long-term success. For business owners with a lean team or running a business solo, social commerce helps:
- Turn social profiles into a shoppable catalog.
- Draw a direct line between social media and ROI.
- Create a seamless customer experience that removes drop-off points that can result in abandoned transactions.
- Unite internal commerce and social media publishing workflows.
Sprout Social’s integrations with Shopify, Facebook Shops and Zendesk combine social commerce, service and experience into one platform, empowering businesses with a single record for each customer and eliminating the need to scour several sources before being able to engage with that customer.
4. Edge out small business competition through social customer service
According to the Sprout Social Index™, 53% of SMB marketers believe that engaging your audiences is what makes a brand best in class on social. Consumers feel differently: 47% believe that best in class brands offer strong customer service.
Engaging your audience is important, but businesses that go above and beyond to prioritize customer service will gain a competitive advantage.
Social media is also consumers’ go-to channel for providing feedback and resolving product or service questions. To optimize your social customer service strategy:
- Use social media management tools like Sprout’s Smart Inbox to collect all social messages in a single stream, increase efficiency and ensure that you’ve addressed all important inbound messages.
- Keep track of common complaints, questions and other inquiries so that you can provide proactive support and customer care in the future.
- Be transparent and forthcoming with your customers about shipping issues, your bandwidth or other customer service issues.
- Request that customers leave reviews so that you can use their feedback to improve operations.
There are big benefits for small businesses on social
Social media success is not exclusive to major brands. No matter the circumstances, social media will help businesses of all sizes ride out uncertain times, maintain connection with their customers and move forward. As you plan your next stage of growth, keep these tips and resources in mind:
- Tap SMB marketing communities or threads for relevant advice, guidance and content inspiration.
What is your best social media advice for a small business owner?
— Brianne Fleming (@brianne2k) May 11, 2021
Dive deeper into the data from the Sprout Social Index™, Edition XVI: Accelerate to learn more about how your business can seize the social moment.