Why social media connections power growing businesses
Meet the small and medium-sized enterprises using social media savvy to scale up their enterprise and get ahead of their competitors
With the UK awash with smartphones it has become paramount for small and medium-sized enterprises to dive into new media marketing if they want to stay afloat.
Mobiles and social media go hand in hand, and that touch-of-a-button immediacy has transformed the way we search and shop.
As such, SMEs are having to evolve, too. Those who fail to have a presence and engage through popular channels will find themselves trailing in the wake of competitors.
By taking advantage of the widespread appeal of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube (among many other options), there are endless examples of those who have cannily – and successfully – ridden the digital wave despite meagre spending budgets.
How best, then, for SMEs to harness the power of new media marketing, while staying loyal to customers and remaining agile?
Uuni, which sells small wood-fired ovens ideal for quick-to-cook pizzas, is one British company that has grown at a breakneck rate thanks to its digital strategy.
In November 2012 Kristian Tapaninaho used Kickstarter to fund development of his prototype and cultivate a community, says Darina Garland, his wife, Uuni’s co-founder and chief marketing officer.
“We now have six full-time staff, three online stores and sell products to 50 countries,” she says. “I can’t imagine Uuni would have been able to thrive at all in a non-digital world.
“The Kickstarter campaign built an instant global customer base, and Kristian built a great rapport with that community, in a transparent and friendly way though social media. It also charted our story, a real-time narrative, and that interaction helped shape our decisions.”
Uuni established a presence on Twitter and Facebook early on and found them to be fantastic channels through which to respond to queries, receive feedback and rapidly deal with any disgruntled customers.
“Crucially, we wanted to be open and contactable, and posting daily, if possible,” says Ms Garland.
Choose your channel
When it comes to selecting which social media channel to use most, it is worth considering your target audience, says Gemma Went, a digital and social media marketing consultant.
Indeed, while behemoths Facebook and Twitter are the first two social media channels one thinks of, increasingly Instagram is jostling for importance for SMEs, thanks to its ability for engagement.
Like Uuni, Tribe focuses its social media marketing on aspirational posts, in the form of lush images of food or group shots of exhausted runners, which lend themselves to Instagram.
Photo: © uuni.net
The London-based company, which brings together adventurous and diet-conscious pavement pounders and serves subscribers with nutritious boxes of energy-boosting natural-food goodies, have generated more than 10,000 followers across all social media platforms since August 2015.
“Our marketing strategy has been about building a community of like-minded people and social media is ideal for that, particularly Instagram,” reveals Tribe’s managing director, Tom Stancliffe.
“We considered YouTube, but with video you are often trying to compress so much in, and the honest truth is that it costs a lot of money to make even a short video. As a relatively cash-strapped start-up, we can take pictures ourselves.
“Also I think there is a ‘virality’ to Instagram, which provides you with a community in a very short space of time, and with immediate momentum; you look at posts, share them, get involved, and it is much easier for people to support and partner you than it is through other channels.”
Finding your voice
In June 2015, after surveying 456 UK-based decision-makers in SMEs, LinkedIn published a report indicating that 93 per cent use social media for growth.
Three quarters of those polled noted that it is an important tool for marketing their business, as well as gaining and retaining new customers (68 per cent).
Since then, it’s reasonable to assume the figure has risen even higher, believes Ms Went. “In the past four years there’s been a dramatic increase in businesses contacting me for assistance with social media strategies,” she says.
“With the right thinking and strategy, it levels the playing field for smaller companies, without doubt, because new media marketing doesn’t require massive budget spend.”
Finding the appropriate voice to communicate your brand’s messages and nurture a customer community is imperative. “It gives SMEs a chance to get themselves into the digital marketplace in an authentic way,” says Ms Went.
“To find that ‘voice’, I tell my clients to write the way they speak. Ultimately people engage with people. If you have a conversation rather than spouting your knowledge, or broadcasting at people, then they’re more likely to engage with you. The one-in-seven rule – whereby only every seventh posting is overly about selling, and the other six are interacting with your customers – is worth remembering.”
One way to make your customers on social media feel extra-special – and provide them with a reason to follow you – is to offer them discounts or invite them to events.
In addition to posts and deals, paying for advertising on social media could prove to be a worthwhile cost – and doesn’t need to be expensive.
“When Facebook started charging for advertising it was a game changer, and now most of the other platforms are looking to do the same thing,” Ms Went says. “But I find the best results are gained from Facebook, still, because so many people use it.”
Whether going for paid advertising or simply embarking on a social media marketing campaign, experimentation is often needed to find the “sweet spot” between each business’s branding, choice of social media platform, and messaging.
“There is no great commitment,” Ms Went explains, “so you could put in £10 a day over a fortnight and see if it does anything for you.”
Article Written By: Oliver Pickup