With Facebook recently bumping Yahoo! from its spot as second most popular website in the U.S. , it’s no surprise that many companies have expanded their social media budgets for 2010. According to a recent industry survey conducted by US Marketers, 79% of retail and e-commerce companies surveyed planned to increase their social media budgets for 2010, and only 1% planned to decrease their budgets. This was the biggest increase, with publishing and media companies close behind at an increase of 63% and business/consumer services at 54%. Facebook was predicted to be the main avenue for the social media spending, with Facebook itself projected to increase its advertising revenue by 39% in 2010. This is not a shock considering recent Neilson stats that claimed Facebook users spent a total of 7 hours each on the site during the month of January. With the obvious upward trend in social media budgets, it is up to the small businesses to follow suit. According to a survey from the Small Business Success Index at the University of Maryland , social media adoption by small businesses has doubled from 12% to 24% in the last year, with nearly one out of five small business owners’ actively using social media for their business. The social media budget expansions can be attributed to a clear increasing trend of consumers using social media sites to help make purchasing decisions. Recent findings from Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate showed that social fans and followers were more inclined to purchase from and recommend the brands they are fans of on social media sites. Their survey found that more than 50% of Facebook fans said they were more likely to make a purchase because of their social connection to the brand, and nearly 67% of Twitter followers reported the same. Of these, 60% said they would recommend that brand to a friend. Therefore, increasing your online presence through social media can grow your customer base exponentially. Here is a list of ways that using social media can benefit your business:
• Increase Your Network: Reach current and potential customers through an informal platform.
• Low Cost/High Return: Costs are relatively low compared to the high return you will receive. Because social media sites are free, the only costs you will incur will be the fee of a freelance programmer if you don’t have time to manage the sites yourself.
• Create Brand Awareness: The use of social media sites allows your company to control its image online using a variety of free formats, as well as to let customers know about sales and promotions. It also gives you constant presence online, allowing customers to reach you on their own terms—wherever and whenever they feel like it.
• Emotional Connection: Your customers will be more likely to buy from you and recommend you to their friends if they feel connected to you. The best way to do this is to get them to trust you through goodwill generation—find a charitable way to make your company stand out.
• Feedback: Interacting with your customers through social media is the key to receiving the feedback that will help you decide which marketing tools are working and which ones aren’t.
Use these tools to create a social media presence for your company and watch your client base, revenue and customer loyalty rise significantly. You’ll find that an increase in budget, however small or large, will make all of the difference.