SMEs are generally familiar with the concept of stretching budgets to the limit. And one area that usually suffers the most is marketing.  Why is this?

The continual balancing act between speculating to accumulate is nothing we don’t know already. But perhaps its because, when small business owners are starting out, too much time is spent on activities that just don’t deliver the right rewards.

Depending on the size and type of your business, getting all the plates spinning at the same time can be massively overwhelming; everything needs attention, everything has to be done on a budget, and everything has to be done yesterday.  So how do you break the cycle and start zoning in on what is going to deliver maximum return for minimum investment?  Well, social networking could be your answer.

Social media networking has become the latest cultural phenomenon to have been appropriated as a peer-to-peer marketing tool.  And, as consumers we can’t get enough of it; ever since Friends Reunited hit the internet in 1999, offering us the opportunity to re-kindle old friendships, we haven’t looked back.  Since then Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, MySpace… (the list goes on) have all enabled us to share our lives in ways not possible before, encouraging us to post the intimacies of our daily lives with our circles of friends, family and co-workers.

Interestingly, ‘More than half of adults 25-34 use social media at the office.  Almost a third of young adults 18-24 use social media in the bathroom. All use social networks to stay connected with acquaintances, be informed and be amused’  and unsurprisingly ‘Advertisers look to social “likes” to enhance brand visibility.’  Source:  The Brief History of Social Media

The advent of sites such as LinkedIn has taken the social networking concept to another level.  No longer are we content with simply sharing the ‘Sandcastles at the beach’ photos with our loved ones, the demand has grown for us to be able to connect with our like-minded, professional peers – networking in a way that isn’t necessarily over canapés and chardonnay.  LinkedIn has become the site of choice (300 million users in 2014) when it comes to intelligent, results-driven, low cost person-to-person marketing activity; due in part, to the relatively low cost for potentially high return that can be yielded by simply networking with your connections.

And the beauty of all this?  You don’t have to be especially tech-savvy to do it.

One area that clients ask us for help with, is how to go about maximising the potential of their social networks. Often, this is down to a lack of time– either to get to grips with how it all works, or simply not having the capacity to publish and share information on a regular basis (because after all, work comes first)!  The most common mistake is to approach contacts and connections as if they were a mailing list, an amorphous glob of people that you push information out to.

Social networking is a different animal. Once you start making your connections, you must value and cherish them. They can be your strongest advocates, and also your harshest critics – because the relative transparency of these sites is what makes them tick.  Endorsements of fellow colleagues and acquaintances are a great way of marking respect for a peer’s work, but equally it creates reciprocal activity and builds your credibility in a way that advertising, direct mail, or telemarketing cannot.  Participating in this community also builds a fabulous supply chain of potential clients – maybe not today, but nurture those contacts, and who knows what may come tomorrow.

Publishing blogs or articles that you have experience of, or expertise in is another great way to get yourself (or your company) ‘heard’.  You can take advantage of the various levels of membership to gain access to more sophisticated ways of promoting yourself and getting your brand ‘out there’.

Effectively, social networking is like an interactive advertising billboard.  It offers you a blank canvas to go out and shout about whatever it is you’re selling, but only those who are compelled by your offering will actually engage.  And here’s the rub: people don’t like to think they are being sold to.  Ever.  They like to think they are having a conversation, a sharing of minds even.  This is what engages them, not the fantastic discount you’re giving on first time customers, or the free giveaway with next purchase.  This is why social marketing is the new way forward for switched on entrepreneurs, marketing professionals, Uncle Tom Cobley and all – you don’t have to be an expert at social networking, you just have to be good at staying in touch, being relevant, and making the effort to communicate on a one-to-one level.

So next time you’re pondering the merits of tweaking your social network profile, consider that according to The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn, LinkedIn generates more B2B leads than Facebook, Twitter, OR blogging.

And…

• 1 out of every three professionals on the planet are on LinkedIn;

• 50% of LinkedIn members report they are more likely to buy from a company they engage with on LinkedIn

After all, as the saying goes ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow’.

Still wondering how to build your online presence?  Why not get in touch and let our Social Media gurus, guide you through the ins and outs of creating a winning online profile – for you or your company.

Call us on 020 8876 6784 for more information about our Social Media packages, and how we can help you build your business.

www.designatedpa.com – you’re in safe hands.