Because that’s where the boys (and girls) are.
Today, small businesses struggle to get noticed (create awareness), be trusted (considered as a provider of a competitive product or service), and close the deal (make the sale). Their traditional strengths of physical proximity, community connection, and personalized customer service play a diminished role in the sales process. The convenience of closeness is cancelled out by the convenience of shopping from anywhere including in your pajamas and having items delivered to your door. Those customers that used to hang around the store (the physical community) are migrating to virtual groups, and customer service is being reduced to an algorithm running in an Artificial Intelligence chatbot or shopping cart virtual assistant.
Moving toward mobile
In the U.S., we spend more time on our phones every year. In the last 5 years, our time spent with select media per day on mobile rose while it fell for traditional TV (non-digital), computer, radio, and print. Out of the average 3 hours 23 minutes, we currently spend on a mobile devices all but 50 minutes of that time is spent in apps.
The moment at which mobile use surpasses traditional TV and becomes the preferred media of choice is nigh. So is the moment when you overhear a parent say, "Why don't you kids plop down on the sofa and watch some TV together."
Social media is the new mall or Main street
Our social lives have shifted to social media. The numbers are in and they continue to grow year over year. According to the Pew Research Center, 76% of Facebook users and 51% of Instagram account holders access their respective sites daily. The number of social media accounts that an average user possesses has jumped from three to over seven in less than 5 years. The amount of time people spend on social media sites is also increasing year over year. From 2012 to 2018, mobile usage for users 18+ doubled from just over 1.5 hours to greater than 3 hours.
A majority of that time was spent in social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat. Over 80% of all time spent on social media is on mobile devices.
Social media is not just where we spend our time. It’s where we engage. 79% of users have announced an important life event on social media, and 1 in 3 mentioned a brand in that announcement. Millennials and Gen Xers are twice as likely as baby boomers to follow a brand on social media, but all three groups interact (Gen Xers = 32%, Millennials = 30%, baby boomers = 14%) with brands on a monthly basis.
Traditional media is declining
When we’re on our phones, we’re not present in the world. We overlook or simply don’t see the types of outbound marketing and advertising (billboards, signs, posters, marquees) upon which small businesses have historically relied. Many small business are aware of this trend but not all. In a study by emarketer.com, 40% of small business owners indicated that they would be increasing their spending on digital media, which included email marketing, internet yellow pages, online ads, online video, social media and website marketing. Only 30% of SMB indicated that they were increasing their budgets for traditional media, which includes direct mail, radio, TV, and yellow pages.
In the broader market place where the big corporations play, ad spend on social media is on pace to outgrow TV ad spend for the first time. There are already more than 2 million businesses advertising on Facebook. Plus, over 50% of people say it’s likely that they will buy from a brand that they follow. That is, of course, if the brand isn’t unresponsive, annoying, spammy, offensive, or just offers an overall bad customer experience.
Social media is for suckers...kind of
Obviously, regardless of your business, it’s important to choose the social media sites that your potential customers use, remain active and engaged, and consistently publish valuable content.
But if you’re a small business the game is rigged. By definition, you can’t compete at scale with large corporations. You don’t have the same amount of money to spend on advertising and marketing that an Amazon or Walmart does. You can’t produce a large volume of high quality content built around topic clusters or publish a single press release that will be shared on every major news publication around the world. Not to mention that you probably don’t have a resource or a budget dedicated to building backlinks. You do have backlink strategy, don't you?
In other words, in the world of organic search and social media feeds, size (of your marketing budget) does matter.
What’s a small business to do?
It’s not fair; it’s the algorithm.
The challenge is how do you take advantage of it. Part of your strategy is to play to your strengths. Use the good, traditional business practices that you built your business on. Know your customers and their specific needs. Then develop a targeted, efficient strategy that aims to satisfy those needs. This means
- developing quality content that your customers value
- sharing other company’s quality content (haters gonna hate, but in small business there’s room for quality)
- engaging with your social media followers
- prioritizing a few, high-value keywords (PPC)
- utilizing longtail keywords
- buying a few budget-friendly ads (social media ads)
In other words, you need a well-rounded (organic and paid) marketing strategy and a consistent content marketing plan. In the organic world, your small business probably won’t show up in page one of Google SERPs for anything except branded searches (a search for your company or a product) or a local search. You have to do what small businesses do best. Focus on quality not quantity using paid ads to supplement your other marketing efforts. For searches, use Google Ads and target a precise range of keywords and topics related to what your customers are looking for. For social media, use your buyer personas to find new customers and your existing customer database to create lookalike audiences.
It's a lot to deal with. No doubt. Sometimes, you just need some help getting started. Other times, you just need to turn it over to someone else to manage so can you focus on what you do best. Either way, we can help.