“Well, all that social media stuff is fine…but it just wouldn’t work for our business.”
Our opening quote is a viewpoint that’s still pretty common in UK businesses. In fact, it turns out that only 60% of UK businesses are currently making use of social media. Yes, fifteen years after the launch of Facebook, and twelve years after the first tweet, around 4 in 10 UK businesses have no social media presence.
Many business owners have the perception that social media is only effective for certain sectors, or for certain audiences. The argument goes that social media is great for the likes of BT, or Domino’s, or Lego. It’s perfect for corporate giants with massive resources, or B2C companies selling super-cool products to millennials. But social media is not for B2B companies, those providing more traditional services…and it’s definitely not for small companies with tiny marketing budgets.
Our view is, well, the complete opposite. We’d argue that provided the strategy is matched to the particular business, there are very few companies that can’t benefit from using social media.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the range of businesses making social media work for them.
Social media in B2B companies
There’s no denying that B2B and B2C need very different marketing strategies. After all, the two types of company have fundamentally different buying processes. B2B buying is slower, less impulsive, more driven by data than B2C purchasing. This has led some to conclude that social media has no place in B2B. It’s too lightweight, too ephemeral for their audience.
However, that’s not what the evidence tells us. Research indicates that around one-third of senior marketers use social media to help them shortlist vendors. Another survey of 115 marketing specialists in B2B roles found that 79% rated social media as their most effective marketing channel.
Take Boehringer Ingelheim, for example. This German-based pharmaceutical conglomerate is the essence of a B2B company — but that hasn’t stopped them developing a highly active and effective social media campaign. The company uses Twitter to promote its brand and values and has accumulated well over a million tweet chat impressions.
Social media in traditional industries
However, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals are high-tech, forward-looking businesses. It’s natural that they align well with the newest forms of marketing. But can social media fit with more traditional industries?
There’s no doubt that some business owners in these sectors feel that their company is just too traditional to match a social media audience. It’s as if they think their service or product is too mundane to broadcast to the world!
But again, there are actually plenty of examples that contradict this. Sectors don’t get more traditional than steel production and mining, and yet Arcelor Mittal makes full use of Twitter to market its activities.
Some companies even use social media to push back against their traditional image. General Electric, for example, has used Instagram to challenge the stereotypes of a male-dominated industry, using prominent and frequent photos of female workers and engineers.
Social media for smaller businesses
OK, we admit that our examples so far have all been pretty large players. However, there’s plenty that small players can achieve too. For example, Four Seasons Plumbing in North Carolina is a family-owned concern that wanted to generate business whilst helping a local animal shelter. Using a social media company, they invested just $120 in a Facebook promotion. Their return was spectacular. Within a month, the advertised posts had been viewed by an audience of 20,000, earned $1500 for the animal shelter and generated $3000 in revenue.
This is an example of just how well a social media campaign can work for a small, traditional business. And although this particular case study comes from the USA, plenty of small UK businesses are experiencing success.
Our take-home message
Ultimately, whether you’re selling fish and chips in Grimsby or servicing photocopiers in Truro, social media gives you a really direct way of connecting with your audience. You can respond to people quickly, share your story, advertise deals and much more. For almost every business, the more you can engage your audience, the more profitable you will be — and engagement is where social media excels.
In our view, far too many UK businesses are missing out on the benefits of social media. We think it’s way past time to change that!
If you’re a small or medium-size business looking to leverage the power of social media, we’re here to help. Get in touch and we’ll be delighted to chat through your needs.