Pros and cons of social media

With the unprecedented rise in the use of social media in recent years, many businesses are including social networking sites in their marketing plans. An online social marketing presence is not suitable for everyone and can be easily misused but, if used correctly, social media can be a valuable addition to your marketing plan.

A poll conducted by MSI Global Alliance recently revealed that 43 per cent of SME's have a social media presence, using predominantly Facebook, MySpace and Linkedin as well as blogs and twitter. Although the figure for personal use is significantly higher Facebook, the largest social networking site in the world, surpassed 400 million users in February 2010.

With figures like that, it is hard not to jump straight on the bandwagon, but before you do there are several things to consider. Do you want to create a social media presence just because everyone else is doing it, because your competitors are doing it, or because you genuinely believe it is a valuable opportunity you are missing out on? If your only motivation is catching up with your competitors, you need to re-evaluate.

Sites like Facebook, twitter, Linkedin, YouTube and blogs can all be useful tools for a number of reasons. All have positive and negative attributes and you should investigate each site to determine which will be most beneficial for your business. Read on to find out about the pros and cons of social media for your small business.

Pros

Cons

Pros

Interaction

Social media is all about interaction. You need to recognise why people use social media (to interact and communicate) and work with it. Sites like Facebook, twitter and Linkedin provide a forum, not only for you to communicate with your customers but for them to interact with you. It fosters two-way communication which could be a great benefit to you. Use social media to deepen the connection you have with your customers.

Brand awareness

Creating a presence on social media sites can put your brand into a new forum and raise brand awareness in a previously untouched medium. On sites like twitter and Facebook, users can re-tweet your tweet, become your fan on Facebook or even post a link to your website or blog on their Facebook profile. This instantly multiplies your reach. The simple fact is more people now head online to find a phone number or address rather than pick up the Yellow Pages. With a greater presence in social media, you also increase your online presence and feature more heavily in search engine results.

Information/referrals

You don't have to use social media sites for the sole purpose of communicating with your customers. Many businesses also use social media as a forum to source business advice or information - looking for a decent marketing consultancy or new supplier? Post the details on twitter or Facebook and your followers might be able to provide the answers. You could source a valuable connection that you may not have known about or had access to.

Cons

Time and Resources

In order to create and maintain a valuable social networking presence, you have to be committed to the cause. It is relatively quick and easy to create a profile but it is time consuming to maintain it and use it to its best advantage. It is not impossible, just easy to become overwhelmed. Creating a profile and leaving it stagnant because you underestimated the time involved will only frustrate and alienate your customers. Social media is used as a tool for interaction and if you don't respond to queries and requests, the use of these social networking sites is pointless.

Customers

While social media can be a valuable tool for a small business to reach their clients, you need to evaluate whether you can communicate with your customers using this medium. Some SME's will be unable to connect with clients via social media. For example, generally speaking, a wholesaler or manufacturer will not benefit from social networking whereas a retailer or service provider might be able to foster the communication needed to be successful with this medium. Understand how people interact with your business.

Messages

With social networking sites growing at such an incredible rate, it is easy for your message to get lost amongst the noise. Facebook has over 400 million users, more than 50 million tweets are posted each day and it is estimated YouTube shares more than two billion videos daily. While standing out in such a crowded environment is not impossible, numbers like this make it is easy to see how the growth of social media has made it difficult.

Social media can be a valuable tool for your company to expand your reach and interact with your customers, but only if it suits your business and marketing plan. Make sure you do your research first and have a good understanding of what your follows would expect.

 

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