Small Businesses Agree Social Media Is A Path To Customers
November 7, 2011 Jenny Thomas
The acceptance of social media as a legitimate means of capturing or communicating with customers continues to grow. A recent study by Newtek Business Services, a peddler of services and financial products to the small- and medium-size business market, found that nearly 60 percent of companies polled use social media tools to communicate with customers.
Even if your small business has not dipped a toe in the social media tidal wave, someone in the organization must be considering it. The cost of a social media campaign alone is pretty attractive. The basic expense is just the labor of the person charged with posting and monitoring whatever media your business decides to choose, which would likely mean someone adding to their existing responsibilities and not the addition of staff. Then there’s the whole “everyone else is doing it” mentality. If all your competitors are Tweeting or posting on Facebook, do you run the risk of being left behind?
Whether or not jumping into social media because it’s the popular thing to do is a good idea remains to be seen, but Newtek reported that its October poll of approximately 2,200 small business owners found that 57 percent of those business owners are using social media to attract new customers. In addition, 58 percent said they are using these tools to communicate with existing customers, and 55 percent of business owners stated that they believe Facebook and Twitter are significant engines of growth for their business.
The Newtek press release also points out that the U.S. Small Business Administration reports there are more than 27.5 million small businesses in the United States. When you extrapolate the findings from the Newtek poll across those kinds of numbers, you can see where the social media boom is coming from.
So where does IBM stand on social media? A look at the IBM i Web page reveals that both the i and Power Systems lines have their own Twitter feeds, and IBM does have pages of references to social media woven throughout the site that offer some guidance on what it is and where to start.
There are tools available specifically to assist i business. We recently reported on software from iWay that combines events occurring on multiple systems, such as an IBM i ERP system and a particular Facebook page or Twitter feed, to trigger the execution of a third event, such as the generation of detailed sales leads from a business intelligence system. And earlier this year, we reported on Station Casinos and learned about the plan to integrate social media throughout the company with a loop back into the data on their IBM i machine.
In the end, it will be the challenge of the individual business to determine how to make social media work best for their organization. While it is certainly important to move with the times, it is equally important that you understand social media is not the type of campaign you can launch and forget. Social media is a commitment and, by definition, requires active participation.