The revolution has officially begun. Local business owners – once skeptical about the business and marketing benefits of social media – are going social in record numbers. “To them it’s the Holy Grail,” says Kip Cassino, Executive VP at Borrell Associates and author of the just-released research report “Main Street Goes Social.”
According to Cassino, social media marketing offers local businesses an easy way to sidestep expensive local media advertising channels and deliver their offers directly to potential customers.
In the latest survey of more than 4,000 small firms conducted by Borrell, local business owners, on average, said they expected to devote about 14 percent of total online ad spending this year to social media. That’s more than double the 6.6 percent social media allocation by local businesses in 2011.
Put that into dollar terms and it represents a spending increase from about $1.1 billion last year to projected spending on social media this year of over $2.2 billion by local businesses.
And Borrell’s market research experts say local business is still just getting started. They expect Main Street businesses to double spending on social media marketing again by 2013 to over $4 billion. And over the next five years, spending on social media marketing by local businesses should jump seven-fold, according to Borrell.
In short, the trend means one thing: Social media will continue to play an ever-growing role in the marketing activities of U.S. businesses both large and small for many years to come.
But just what are these “Social Media” the researchers are talking about. For most small business owners, the dominant player is Facebook. But the social media universe includes many other key players, including Google+ (which launched its business service just a month ago), YouTube and Twitter, along with ethnic networks such as Blackplanet, Latpro Network and Muxlim. Add to that the business-oriented sites such as LinkedIn, Focus, Quora and Ryze, plus thousands of other special interest sites.
Local business owners still split their online ad spending among several different methods. Email marketing – with a 17.4 percent share of spending – is still the largest, although social media is likely to overtake it soon. Search engine marketing (such as Google Adwords) is second with a 15.1 percent share. Social media is third, while business directory listings occupy fourth place with a 12 percent share of the typical business owner’s ad wallet. Other top categories include banner or display ads, streaming video ads, mobile, sponsorships and audio (podcast) ads.
Here are five success tips for social media:
1) Don’t wait. Start using social media tools right away. Startups should take their brand into the social sphere from Day One. Having a solid online presence will help professionals and other local business owners quickly gain access to an audience that will read and comment on your products and services. It’s also a great way to listen in on what customers are saying, monitor the competition and stay abreast of trends.
2) Name your Facebook business page carefully and keep it separate from your personal page. Changing the name once its set is difficult. Use an adaptable name, like stylist, hair pro, financial services professional, etc.
3) Spotlight others on your Facebook business page. Give credit to employees and clients. These people will in turn “Like” your page and share positive reviews – a powerful resource for attracting new clients.
4) Let everyone know you’re socially connected. This gives you an advantage over your competitors who might not be as actively involved.
5) Create content that will engage your audience. Develop a list of topics that will interest your customers and prospects. For example: Talk about trade show events you’ll be attending (before, during and after). Share business-related photos and videos and tips of the day or week. Showcase events and people from your local or business community.
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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.