This article is sponsored by Comcast Business, but all opinions belong to the author.
In the early aughts, people turned to Myspace as their primary social media tool. And, while it quickly became a popular platform, it wasn’t until the rise of Facebook and Twitter did companies begin to see the potential benefits of having a presence on social media. Indeed, with more than 1.5 billion active users across the globe, it shouldn’t be hard to see why it makes sense for businesses to have some kind of presence on Facebook. Regardless of size or funding or status, all businesses should leverage popular social media to support their company’s goals. Tech.Co reached out to startup founders and small business owners and asked them: why is social media important for a business?
We are living in the age of social media – a reality in which platforms like Instagram can have a significant impact on other industries (like food tourism). Despite reports earlier this year that social media activity is down compared to last year, they still provide powerful avenues through which brands can engage with current and potential customers and users. For example, Swiss company Runtastic has relied on social media to help grow its user base. According to Runtastic cofounder and CEO Florian Gschwandtner, CEO, the innate human propensity for sharing has allowed the company to leverage that into success for the company:
But, again, social media can and should be leveraged by businesses of all sizes. In a recent online seminar held by Comcast Business, social media experts weighed in on how brands and entrepreneurs can use social media to help them grow their businesses and increase sales:
Read what real entrepreneurs have to say about the power of social media and how it affects the overall success of your business:
Joseph Nagle, Director of Marketing at EverCharge
“Social media has changed the way that we interact with other companies, how we source new leads, and how we have built out many of our partnerships. Initially, using social media to bring in new business was not thought of as a true lead source within the company and I faced some hurdles getting it off the ground; however, because social media requires very little in terms of funds to get running I was able to prove that social could be a huge sales tool for the company. Now, over one-third of our leads and site traffic come from Twitter or Facebook and most of our initial partnership conversations start on LinkedIn.
It’s certainly possible for a small business to survive without a social presence, and if they are unable to use social media the right way it could become a hindrance rather than a resource. In the end, though, startups must leverage social media as its the best way to reach new audiences with minimal spend.”
Jennifer Thomas, Owner and Operator of BobbleGram Inc.
“I have to admit, I was slow to embrace social media for the business and as a Gen-Xer, I was slow to embrace it personally as well. I had a hard time imagining why potential customers would want to share my business with their networks.
Everything changed for us in late 2010 when Pinterest started taking off…our traffic boomed. Our product images were saved to user's boards and then resaved. To date, we have over 185,000 pins on Pinterest.
At the same time, our organic Google traffic which used to flow like a geyser as become a slow trickle over the last 10 years. At this point, I can't imagine how a small business with a limited adwords budget could survive without some sort of viral social media traffic. Not every company can create a shareable brand that customers relate to so much that they feel compelled to share it with their networks. That is a special kind of brand. For the rest of us, we need to find a different angle and I think that is very much dependent on the individual business.”
John Turner, Founder of QuietKit
“Social media, specifically Twitter and Quora, have been helpful on spreading the word about QuietKit. But, initially, I wasn't sure it would be helpful. It was only after discovering how many people on both platforms were openly asking for help with meditation that I realized it was a perfect way to help people who were seeking help, instead of me trying to promote to a potentially apathetic audience.
I think it is possible for certain businesses to survive without social media, but it all depends on what market they are serving, how their customers and users do business, and their distribution approach. Within that context, it certainly is possible for a business to survive without social, but as social media becomes more and more present in our lives, the number of businesses that that is true for will dwindle.”
Roberta Perry, Founder of Scrubz Natural Body Products
“[Social media] has made me more in tune with my customers. It has given a voice to our brand and a friendship/relationship with them – [turning them into] brand ambassadors.
I started my business 10 years ago when social media was just becoming a thing in general, let alone a thing for business. I embraced it, not even knowing how or why. I saw the potential in customer relationships being honed that way. Luckily I reserved our username across all the platforms early and then began using them as we learned what to do.
With each passing year, you have to realize it’s the easiest way to connect directly with your customers. The struggle is finding the right balance. It’s sometimes hard to separate the marketing from the spending-all-day-on-social-media mentality. [From]knowing how to properly do FB ads [to] how to properly engage with an Instagram audience, using social media needs to be one part of your marketing arsenal.”
Liza Viana, CEO of CMK Marketing
“As the CEO of our startup marketing agency, we see the benefits of utilizing social media each and every day including: 1) scouting potential leads; 2) drawing in those potential leads; 3) advertising quickly and easily; 4) monitoring what resonates with our target demographic; 5) keeping a pulse on what's going on within the community (extremely important as not only a startup, but local business, as well); 6) establishing our brand voice through more than just our website and blog; and 7) providing us the opportunity to network and engage with other local business, current clientele, etc.
Social media was, and is, a quick, easy and inexpensive way to spread the word about my business and our clients' businesses. We thrive on the work of other local businesses and social media provided us with the opportunity to engage and attract those surrounding us. Whether friends, family, or current clients, people now had a direct pipeline to us and us to them.
I definitely think it's possible for a small company/business to survive without social media, but boy does it make it a heck of a lot harder. Plus, if you can't find a business on Facebook these days, it's almost an automatic mark against you. We've seen a lot of success with Facebook ads, not only for ourselves, but now for our clients, too. I can't imagine a better alternative to engaging advertisements with easy-to-read analytics all at a lower price point (well, whichever price point you set forth) than what's provided on social media. Facebook advertising in particular has been a boon for small businesses around the country; it gives them great targeting abilities and the reporting is extremely details, so you know exactly what any particular ad campaign got you.”
Craig Bloem, CEO and Founder of FreeLogoServices
“Social media has been extremely helpful as a way to stay in contact with our current customers. We use it mainly to share ideas, offers, and to get them to interact with our brand. Our success with social media has been using it as a tool for customer service. Many of our customers will message us or post on Facebook and Twitter, and it’s been a great way to see the great things people are saying about us, and also quickly monitor and resolve any issues. However, we haven’t seen much success with obtaining new customers through these channels, so we do not put too much focus on that.
Initially, social media was not our main focus. As a small business, you need to prioritize and analyze the cost/benefit of everything you do, and for a while we did not have the time and resources to dedicate to starting a social media presence[…]but for most small businesses it is extremely important to have social media accounts on major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest; some may say that Snapchat is the wave of social media (we are not convinced just yet)[…]Honestly, whether it’s to find information about you or easily get in contact with you, your presence is vital to the success of your business. It is a great way to build brand awareness and legitimacy for your business. If nothing else, all businesses should create accounts and check back frequently for any customer communication.”
Alex Kehr, Founder of Wander Agency
“Social media has changed the way that I do business as a startup founder by making it easier to rapidly test out ideas and also gain valuable feedback from our customers. It’s easy to get great feedback on Twitter or Facebook, and ease of access to customers and our target audience is something that I embrace[…]I embrace social media as not just a tool to promote my own business, but also as a way to uncover ways to grow my business by seeing what my target audience is talking about and wants.
I think it’s possible for a small business to survive without social media, but only in very select industries and professionals. For example, lawyers and doctors don’t need social media to survive. I would even argue that doctors and lawyers don’t even need websites, or perhaps just websites that display their address and contact information. However, [for] a startup, especially one with a highly technical product definitely needs to utilize social media to survive. A great website to accompany a great social media presence is a must have here.”
John Kinskey, President and Founder of AccessDirect, Inc.
“Just a few short years ago, I thought social media was overblown and not much use to a small business. Organic internet search was our emphasis. Now, social media has become a very important element in promoting our business. Younger shoppers in particular look at a company's social media presence, including regular updates, as a credibility factor. If your social media is stale, the younger generation views that as a “closed for business” sign. And, in fact, the only way they might find you is through Facebook or Twitter or other social media venues – [usually through] seeing their friend's likes, shares and comments.
With the ability to get organically ranked and found on Google search becoming harder and harder for small businesses, social media has become the new equalizer. Any-sized company can advertise on Facebook at the same low cost per exposure or per click as a multi-national corporation. And the ability to micro target Facebook ads or boosted posts makes that venue very efficient for a small business budget. We embrace social media as a key marketing channel for our company and it is grabbing a larger and larger share of our budget.”
Case Lawrence, Founder and CEO of CircusTrix
“As the owner of CircusTrix, a network of extreme recreation parks, I didn't think that tech would play a large role when we launched in 2011. I quickly learned that even though the extreme recreation experience is in-person, jumpers and fans want to have a digital relationship with the company as well. It’s amazing to see how many people visit our parks just so they can have an experience to share on social media.
It was overwhelming at first. With almost 30 parks around the world, the idea of keeping up with all our jumpers via social media seemed very daunting. Even though we knew it would be a challenge, we realized the value of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to our audience and our company.
We took the plunge and we're glad we did as we've seen social media explode over the past several years. We started using it right away because it was free but now, it's our most important marketing tool.
Although it may be possible for a small business to survive without social media, I wouldn't recommend it. You may have a killer product that can thrive without an online presence, but even then, I'm convinced you'd be much better off interacting with customers on social media.”
Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal
“I have been in the landscaping industry my entire life and previously founded a landscape company with over 100 employees. Over the past 20 years, I have seen how social media has changed the way small-businesses must operate in approach to their customer service.
Now, the ubiquity of social media – especially Facebook and Yelp – now holds all small business owners more accountable to provide better customer service to their customers and follow-up on their needs rather than just ignoring them when you drop the ball. With these platforms an upset customer is just a few taps on their phone away from telling everybody about how you failed them. A negative sentiment stays out there forever; it doesn't matter how many people you make happy that negative sentiment will always be visible to other potential customers.
So, social media is a good thing overall it makes us all better business owners to deliver a better experience for customers; however, just keep in mind an angry customer is just a few taps away from letting everybody know how they feel.”
Adelaide Diaz-Roaa, Co-owner of the Pawliday Inn
“We started embracing social media since before we opened, we were putting up pictures of our building process on Facebook and Instagram. Then, we marketed our grand opening event on Facebook.
Social media has definitely changed the way we do business – we include it in all of our marketing and it allows us to automatically reach out to new potential clients. It also helps us keep current clients engaged. Our newest form of social media that we have implemented has been Snapchat. We’ve trained our employees to Snap throughout the day and it keeps our customers happy. It also helps us get potential customers by showing them live footage in a fun and easy way of how much fun the pups have with us – it has definitely been a game-changer.
At this point, I think it might be possible for a small business to survive without it, but it would make it 20 times harder to get noticed. It also helps a lot of people see ‘social proof’ that you have a good company and helps give that extra push to come do business with you. Also, if your competition does use social media, they will have a significant advantage and might drive you out of business with time. So, I think it is possible, but rare.”