Social Business Skills Lacking in the Mid-Market
With the cost of getting into the social networking sphere relatively small, one would expect that small and midsize businesses would jump at the chance for extra exposure and customer interaction, but a new study shows that the opposite is true. This fact puts an amazing opportunity in the hands of IT leaders at midsize business, as the social space could easily come to define the next few years.
While social media sites may have risen to prominence due to consumer use, it quickly became apparent that businesses of all sizes could take advantage of this new medium to grow and strengthen their customer base. Social media allows businesses, especially those with relatively modest marketing budgets, to interact with customers on a personal level or deepen the connection with existing customers.
A new study from SMB DigitalScape, a data analysis engine developed by vSplash, shows that over 80 percent of SMB websites have no link to social media platforms. As noted in the eWeek article, the software also found that these sites lacked a way for customers to contact the company, including simply listing a phone number, and most were not prepared to render on mobile devices.
There isn't any current information on where this disconnect comes from, but there are some interesting considerations. Social media is generally run through the marketing department, but providing a platform to interact with all the disparate social networking sites and putting the correct links on the company's sites falls on IT. If the IT department doesn't understand the importance of this type of marketing to the business, these tasks could easily get pushed back indefinitely, hurting the business in a way that will not be immediately obvious to upper management. Alternatively, social media could fall behind to a lack of funding, should upper management not truly grasp how the technological world is shifting.
Social Media Solutions
Regardless of how small and midsize businesses got into this mess, to avoid leaving money on the table, they all need to immediately institute a social presence and integrate that presence with the rest of their existing systems. Of course, simply starting a Facebook page or a Twitter account is far from enough, but there are plenty of resources out there to help a business get going in the right direction.
As this Financial Post article explains, successful social marketing involves far more than simply trying to sell things through marketing messages. Customers want to interact with companies like they interact with their friends, and IT's job is to facilitate that interaction so it is as seamless as possible. Customers need to be able to find all of a company's resources easily, and marketing or customer service employees need a customer relations management software that can effortlessly integrate with existing social media solutions.
On this last point, midsize business are getting a lot of help. Other businesses, like Lithium and Nimble and major players Microsoft and HP, are providing portals that will help connect businesses and social media. According to this MarketWatch release, HP recently announced its new Social Enterprise Services offering, which provides a social CRM solution for businesses.
Social business is only going to grow over the next few years, and midsize businesses that aren't aware of its importance can easily start losing market share to businesses that are. The resources for a profitable social solution are out there, but they require the combined efforts of upper management, marketing, and IT. These types of collaborations are often fraught with peril, but the payoff for correctly implementing a social strategy is so huge that it is certainly worth the headaches and effort.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.