Harnessing Social Media to Reach Small Businesses

In the B2B world, if small businesses are a target, you must integrate social media strategies into your marketing/communications/PR programs. The fact is that small businesses are chomping at the bit for information. Most small business owners don’t have an established management team, mentor, or group of individuals they can bounce ideas off, commiserate with or do a quick gut-check with. So they’re turning to social media channels to find “people like them” to help  make better business decisions.

According to the “Small Business Success Index”™ (SBSI) conducted by University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business (and reported on by Hubspot and Mashable), one in five small business owners are integrating social media into their business processes. Nearly half (45%) believe their social media strategies will pay off financially in 12 months or less. Further, 75% of those surveyed have a company page on a social networking site, 61% use social media for identifying and attracting new customers, and 57% have built a network through a site like LinkedIn.

LinkedIn

The benefit of social media to small businesses is pretty clear – social media is much less expensive than traditional marketing/advertising campaigns; and it gives you direct access to consumers and customer feedback. The opportunity to generate new business leads through direct contact with buyers is significant.

But flip the coin, and it becomes apparent that opportunities abound for financial services companies – especially banks, insurance companies, benefits brokers and financial planners – to tap into the online communities of small business owners to generate new business as well.

Bank of America and American Express are both reaching this audience through dedicated microsites. But if you don’t have the time or resources to commit to creating a separate site for small business owners, here are a few other ways you can connect:

  • Webinars/Podcasts: A recent survey from Business.com reported in PRNews (subscription required) found that webinars and podcasts are two of the most popular platforms that small business owners turn to for business decision making. If you have content – i.e. tips on maximizing employee benefits, succession planning strategies, wealth management options for small business owners – it’s fairly easy to create a podcast or a webinar and post it to your website. Just be sure to leverage it through the various social  media channels available (e.g. Twitter, Facebook)
  • Blogs: According to a very unscientific Google search, there are XX blogs dedicated to small business issues. Start commenting on these blogs. Answer other bloggers questions. According to the SBSI, 39% of small business owners surveyed have a blog on their areas of expertise – find them and start engaging. Share their blog posts with your contacts via Twitter and LinkedIn. Let these bloggers know about your content – the webinars, podcasts and blog posts you’re creating.
  • Twitter: If small businesses are a major target of yours, be strategic about your tweets. The SBSI found that 26% of small business owners are tweeting about their areas of expertise. Do the same. Find interesting and relevant information for small business owners and tweet it. Start following small business owners and other thought leaders on small business issues.
  • LinkedIn: Join as many discussion groups on small businesses issues as you can, and be responsive. Help small business owners get the information they need by answering their questions, or start your own discussion group about your area of expertise.

Opportunities abound for financial services providers seeking to engage with small businesses through social media. Small business owners are already out there, and are seeking information from people like you – it’s up to you to go find them.

To reach Meghan:

Phone:   212.840.1661
Email: Meghan@blisspr.com
Twitter: @meghanlantier
LinkedIn: Meghan Lantier