As 2015 approaches, the social media industry is stabilizing, and new (successful) networks no longer pop up every other day. While this is good because it means you don’t need to change networks on a regular basis, it’s bad because bigger businesses already have a foothold on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram, and small businesses need to find new ways to compete.
Here are three trends in small business social marketing that will become even more significant in 2015.
Higher CompetitionIf you have been active on Facebook and Twitter over the last year, you have noticed the increase in ads. In addition, the organic reach of Facebook posts continues to drop, with the last reported average being 16 percent reach. And since Twitter shows every tweet in the Home feed, a single tweet is quickly buried.
Facebook and Twitter aren’t punishing businesses; they’re just getting crowded. More and more, small businesses will need to pay for attention.
Visual ContentVisual content was a hot topic at the beginning of 2014, but it’s not going away. Visual content gets more attention and engagement on Facebook, tweets now include images in the Twitter Home feed, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat are mostly visuals, Tumblr is all about animated GIFs and images–and don’t forget about video networks like YouTube and Vimeo.
If you don’t have some design or video editing skills, you may want to look into hiring someone who does.
Multi-Channel EngagementIf you have to pay for attention and engagement on social networks, wouldn’t you want to switch to direct channel of communication as soon as possible? That’s why long-term engagement on social media is becoming a pipe dream.
In 2015, small businesses will want to collect email addresses or other contact information from their social media fans and followers as soon as possible. This allows small businesses to find prospects through social, but also opens a direct line of communication that they don’t need to pay for. Right now, two of the best ways to do this are social promotions and contests, so expect to see a lot more of them in the coming year.
We hope 2015 is an awesome year for small businesses everywhere. While these three trends make social media more competitive, there is still a lot of growth and opportunity in the social media world, so we are excited to continue helping small businesses get more leads and customers.
As the world of marketing evolves and becomes more complex, one has to wonder how small business owners can stay abreast of what marketing trends are emerging, never mind figure out which are worth investing in for their particular situation.
Let me offer some help. First, as you update (or create) your marketing plan, ask yourself:
Small business marketing trends that are important for your upcoming marketing efforts.
1. The integrated marketing plan becomes popular again:
Although I’m not a huge fan of complex marketing plans, I do believe having a plan is more important for small businesses than they realize. A marketing plan focuses your efforts and helps you avoid wasting time and money doing things that aren’t moving your business towards your goals.
And now, with all the varying online activities – email marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, mobile marketing, search marketing – you need one place where you define what you will be doing and in what time frame.
2. Content marketing dominates small business marketing strategies:
Today’s buyers are smart – we no longer want to be sold and we are sure going to know a lot about the possible solutions to our problems before we make a purchase decision. In fact, according to the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) almost 60% of the purchase decision is made before prospects reach out to vendors. This means the buyer is finding content from expert sources to help them determine the best solution to their problem.
To position your business as an expert resource, you need to create content that speaks to your audience, helping them determine the best route to take. What this means for small businesses is that you need to have a blog if you don’t already have one and you must keep adding new, fresh content regularly. Blogs convert readers into buyers. 42% of consumers look to blogs for information about potential purchases; 52% say blogs have impacted their purchase decisions. According to Hubspot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing, almost 80% of marketers with a company blog have acquired new customers.
3. Case studies get reinvented into content marketing stories:
It’s hard to continually produce content that is relevant to your audience. Most small businesses have plenty of satisfied customers but few use these experiences as a source of rich content that will help others understand how you solve a problem better than anyone else.
But did you know that for B2B marketers customer testimonials (89%) and case studies (88%) have the highest effectiveness rating for influencing potential buyers? And 85% of consumers say that they read online reviews for local businesses and 73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more.
Most of us underestimate the value of what we do really well because what we do for our clients may seem so simple to us. We are taught that things of value must be difficult, therefore what we do which is easy for us has no value.
Just remember that your ideal clients are willing to pay you to do what you do best because it solves a problem or fulfills a need, regardless of how simple it may seem to you. Your existing clients and customers can often provide inspiration for your most powerful and engaging content spoken in the language your customer understands.
4. Marketing activities evolve from mobile enabled to mobile optimized:
A year ago in my post on small business marketing trends for 2013, I said that mobile support was mission critical and that mobile responsive design would be the most popular small business solution. Today, responsive design is just the first step.
If you are like me, you read email, participate in social media and research information regularly via your mobile device. According to Pew Internet research, 63% of adult cell owners now use their phones to go online and 34% of these cell internet users say that they mostly go online using their cell phone.
With this growth, if the first impression a buyer has of your brand on their smartphone or tablet is not the experience they expect, you can potentially lose a customer before you even know they are interested. Review your marketing tools and determine if mobile access provides a user experience that doesn’t detract from the message you are trying to convey:
5. Getting and staying visible is no longer an option:
If I can’t find your business online, do you really exist?
I ask this question every time I am speaking with a small business owner who is wondering if they should create a solid web presence for their business. 93% of online research starts with a search engine, and 68% of consumers check out companies on social networking sites before buying. Online visibility is a must, so every small business needs a strategy that increases their visibility when someone is in need of their products or services.
Although your web presence begins with a well-designed, mobile responsive website and integrated blog, it is much more. Start with a web presence analysis to find out how visible your business is today. Once you have your baseline visibility, then add marketing activities that help increase and optimize your presence on social media and online directories.
6. Simplicity in marketing will become the norm:
Many marketers feel that today’s buyers are web-savvy, mobile-enabled researchers capable of sifting through the complex information about a product or service in order to make a purchase decision. In reality, buyers are looking for trustworthy information that helps them easily and efficiently weigh their purchase options. Too many options and messages can paralyze decision making, encouraging the buyer to look at your competitors.
Keep your marketing simple. It will help both you and your prospective customer. Make your value clear, your purchase process simple and customer service awesome. Focus on creating websites and marketing materials whose design is clean and message is clear to attract more people to your business.
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