Think social, not company

Decision makers in small businesses are much more likely to look for information about your company in social networking sites, than on your own website or blog. That’s the significant conclusion you can draw from the study of how you can engage small business decision makers through social media. This is a significant piece of research of almost 3,000 companies employing from 1 to 99 people, in a broad range of industry sectors. The findings should not be ignored.

Social media is now the most important online activity your business should concentrate on

Social media is now the most important online activity your business should concentrate on

What the study found was that across all industries, engagement using social media was very high. In fact, in all industries decision makers in small business look to social networking sites for information on suppliers, rather than look on the company’s own blog. Around two-thirds of business people who use social media will look at your company’s profile on a social networking site, such as LinkedIn or Facebook as their primary means of finding out about you. This implies that only one in three of your potential target customers are actually bothering to go to your website in the first instance.

That’s important and should not be passed by lightly. So let’s repeat what the study finds. More social media users will go to a social networking site to find out about your business than will look at your own blog. So, perhaps it is time to ask ourselves a question. How much time do we invest in our own websites, compared with our presence on social media? If your website gets most of your attention, it could be time to switch.

The study also found some interesting changes in the way people prefer their information. Although there are differences between sectors, on average the preferred method of gaining information online using social media is…wait for it….webinars and podcasts. That’s right; people now prefer to watch presentations online, or to listen to audio recordings than anything else. In spite of all the hype, Twitter was the least preferred method of finding information on a company.

So, what areas should you be concentrating on, in order to get your company noticed using social media? Here is the list of methods you should adopt (according to the results of the study) in descending order:

  1. Webinars
  2. Podcasts
  3. User reviews and ratings
  4. Profiles on social networking sites
  5. Company blog
  6. Forums
  7. Q&A sites, such as Yahoo! Answers and Answers
  8. Content sharing sites, such as Scribd and Issuu
  9. RSS Feeds
  10. Discussions on social networking sites
  11. Social bookmarking, such as Digg
  12. Twitter

The list varies somewhat from sector to sector – for example, in the Advertising and Marketing industry Twitter moves up the list several places, whilst in the legal sector, taking part in forums becomes second on the list. However, broadly what this study shows is the significance of social media to every business.

Having a website is, of course, essential. It gets you people who don’t use social media – around 40% of people on average. But the rest of the world is now so focused on the social aspect of the Internet, you can no longer afford to ignore it. In fact, this study shows it should be your number one priority.

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