Although the recent economic downturn is slowly fading into memory, it has left a legacy that many small businesses throughout the UK are struggling to shake off. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are finding some things tough-such as access to bank loans and finding talent to move them forward. But can the same be said for marketing?
While marketing can be carried out across a variety of channels, including traditional ones-handing out fliers, holding in-store events, and advertising in the media-social media is being used to help spur growth for many SMBs in the United Kingdom. Not the least through a variety of social media channels.
The UK's leading conference call service provider, Conference Genie, surveyed 250 United Kingdom SMBs across five different industries (finance, health and fitness, retail, technology, and travel) with help from OnePoll. Several stats were gleaned from the May 2014 study, many of which highlight how small businesses in the UK are rising to the challenge of marketing using limited funds and creativity.
The industry-specific downloadable whitepapers reveal that 22 percent of SMBs surveyed would spend more time on improving their knowledge of marketing and promotion based on their experiences in the past 12 months. Travel companies proved to be the most enthusiastic about this-something 30 percent invested in for 2014.
This follows on research earlier in the year from LinkedIn that found SMBs in the United States and Canada are turning to social media for growth as well. It found 81 percent are using social media, and of those that use it, 94 percent do so for marketing purposes.
This tells us marketing through social media is a step in the right direction for many small businesses not only in the UK but across the world. If used in the correct way, it can help win new customers without spending too much.
So say SMBs need to fill a gap in customer service. Social media allows customers to get in touch with companies sans a phone call or office visit. The LinkedIn study showed social media helped increase brand awareness (91 percent) and generate new leads (82 percent) for SMBs across the U.S. and Canada.
When it came to working with social media for marketing and promotion, some UK companies revealed that they weren't sure about how to make the most of it. Using all of the whitepapers, 38 percent of surveyed SMBs said Facebook was the most challenging of all social media platforms for marketing their businesses.
Facebook's Messenger could make it more complicated in the short run for these SMBs in the UK, but marketers can benefit long term. Plus, the social network's new Privacy Checkup that it recently rolled out should help users clear up confusion over the privacy settings.
Meanwhile, 26 percent find Twitter challenging, too, with some of the other networks, including LinkedIn and Instagram, either proving less difficult to use or not being very popular in the first place with SMBs. Nevertheless, it seems that many smaller firms in the UK are willing to invest both time and money into marketing in the future, particularly where using social media is concerned.
UK companies in the travel (35 percent), retail (34 percent), and technology (26 percent) sectors said they would invest more of their money into marketing and promotion during the remainder of 2014 than in any other area of their businesses.
Some other interesting stats from the UK study:
- 17 percent of those surveyed in the financial industry find Twitter and Facebook equally challenging.
- 40 percent of those surveyed in the technology industry find Facebook most challenging.
- 71 percent of those surveyed in the health and fitness industry find social media platforms a cost-effective way to promote business.
- 50 percent of those surveyed in the retail industry expressed concern about engaging with audiences on Facebook.
- 42 percent of those surveyed in the travel industry find Facebook most challenging.
Studies continue to demonstrate the importance and challenges of social media for SMBs around the world. The social networks are paying attention, clearly, as Twitter expanded its self-serve ads to the UK, Ireland, and Canada at the end of last year. LinkedIn also keeps up with what SMBs need with its help center. And just in May, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO and author of the book, "Lean In," shared how the social media network wants to reach out to its 25 million SMBs with affordable advertising products. It even offered Facebook Fit workshops throughout the summer in five cities to show SMB owners the nuts and bolts of using the platform as a marketing tool.
Surely, other social networks will follow suit with guidance, and affordable services and products for SMBs if they want to tap this goldmine as well.