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Ask the Expert: Reaching the Socially Connected Consumer
Real-time conversations, buzzwords like “hashtags” and “handles,” numerous platforms and the sheer volume of communication has caused social media to intimidate many small business owners. Engaging customers through social media is a time commitment, and busy entrepreneurs often opt-out.
However, during a recent CEO Series webinar, R/GA Managing Director Troy Kelley encouraged entrepreneur participants to think twice before opting-out of a social media strategy. He referred to social media as the democratization of online publishing, which helps to level the playing field between small businesses and their larger competitors.
In his presentation, Kelley backed up his statement first by giving an overview of the evolution of advertising. While larger corporations may have had an advantage 40 or 50 years ago, social media channels have since empowered consumers and reduced the need for large advertising budgets. Troy Kelley segmented the evolution of advertising into three stages:
Advertising 1.0: Forty years ago big brands developed a big message that they would then broadcast over mainstream channels. They would tell consumers what to do in an often hard-sell message. This form of communication was a one-way monologue, often broadcasted over TV. The biggest and the loudest company was heard.
Advertising 2.0: In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, direct mail and advances in the web changed the stream of communication from a monologue to a dialogue. Companies could engage consumers in a one-to-one conversation and tailor their messages instead of resorting to a mass broadcast.
- Advertising 3.0: This stage began in 2007 when social media emerged and Facebook expanded beyond college campuses to include the general public. This form of communication is a tri-alogue, where brands speak to consumers, consumers speak to other consumers and consumers then speak back to brands. Consumers are empowered by their ability to share their company experiences with others. Active consumers search for product reviews, ask their friends for recommendations and research options before making a purchase.
In the age of the socially connected consumer, small businesses cannot afford to opt-out of the conversation. A study shows that 16% of people believe what they hear in an advertisement while an overwhelming 75% believe what their friends or social network tell them. Consumers are talking on social networks so small businesses need to actively engage, listen and respond to what is being said about their brands.
The good news for small business owners is that they are uniquely positioned to connect with their social consumers. Social media strategies require several assets to successfully influence consumer spending. While looking at social media requirements, Kelley highlighted ways in which small businesses have an advantage over larger corporations.
Social Media Requirement: Small Business Advantage
Relevance: A small business’s local presence helps its messages resonate with consumers. Small businesses should tap into the community culture and local events in order to make their messages more relevant to customers.
Speed to Market: Small businesses have fewer channels to go through before publishing a message or finalizing a decision. Owners should take advantage of their ability to act when customers ask them to – active consumers appreciate timely responses.
Unique/Interesting: A small business means local employees and familiar faces. Personal conversations and social messages that are unique to the business will garner higher customer engagement.
- Community Management: Social media is not meant to be a one-way conversation. Large companies often focus on size of audience and span of reach instead of quality of conversation. Small businesses should connect with their social network and engage in back-and-forth conversations.
During the webinar, Kelley also offered small business owners advice for how to employ social media strategies and connect with consumers from the Millennial Generation. Click here to listen to the full webinar recording and view the PowerPoint presentation.
Share your experiences and challenges with social media in the comment section below.
BY Mary Duggan on July 3rd, 2012
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