The emergence of social media has changed the business, marketing, and advertising landscapes in ways that could not be imagined when Mark Zuckerburg first created Facebook in his Harvard dorm room. With the emergence of LinkedIn as a networking and business resource and social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accommodating advertising and business applications, social media has evolved into a valuable information resource for business users. Large entities have largely embraced the need to be on social media. However, the millions of small businesses across the United States have generally been slow to embrace the platforms. Firms who need to find new customers and clients ignore these tools at their peril.
To be sure, social media can be a daunting challenge to small business owners. Outside firms typically charge between $500-$2000/month to maintain social media sites for a small business. Some small businesses are unwilling or unable to budget funds for this need. Another issue may be time. Small business owners often devote long hours to building and maintaining their businesses, and they don’t have time to devote to social media. Between posting the 5-10 times per week that most social media experts recommend, running ad campaigns, and understanding trends and changes in an evolving social media landscape, many business owners simply cannot assume this responsibility properly.
Ignoring social media sends the wrong signals to one’s customer base. The largest danger is lack of visibility. If one’s competitors are on social media and a prospective customer or client performs a search for providers on Facebook and LinkedIn, the business that utilizes social media is more likely to win a client’s business. And even if a firm’s presence is well-understood, ignoring social media can create a perception that a business is not doing what’s necessary to maintain a competitive edge.
Maintenance is critical. The one type of social media presence that’s arguably more harmful to a firm’s image than no sites is an unmaintained site. If an entity has not posted to its site in months or years, customers could call into question whether the company is still in business. Additionally, social media is an avenue where customers can post both positive and negative information about a business. Negative reviews and complaints that are left unaddressed can lead to unfavorable image problems for a firm, and depending on the business, bad reviews can have a detrimental effect on revenue if not properly addressed.
Creating and maintaining social media pages may be a lot of work. However, the work, issues, and costs associated with social media bring the business a competitive advantage with increased visibility and greater customer engagement. The lack of a social media presence is a huge hindrance to prospective customers who are searching for a specific firm or businesses within a category. Worse, if one has a presence on social media that has not been maintained for months, or sometimes years, customers might wonder if the entity is still in business. Conversely, if one makes an effort to both create and maintain a firm’s social media pages, the business can benefit from a low-cost form of advertising as well as bring a level of customer engagement that was unaffordable for small businesses in a different era.