It Needs To Be Business Class
SMEs are a very important part of the economy, however they face specific difficulties when compared to larger organisations. According to the Asian Development Bank Institute they have limited access to financial resources, suffer from insufficient use of IT, and their sales channels are not developed enough.
Social media can assist SMEs to overcome some of their disadvantages. It can provide them access to missing knowledge, improve communication within the organisation and external parties, allow them to reach new prospects, and engage their current clients. Social media can also offer a cost effective marketing solution for SMEs ( Rugova and Prenaj, 2016).
Not a Magic Pill
Nonetheless, social media is not a magic pill which can bring in wealth and fortune with little or no investment. Many SMEs have difficulties to harness it and get the results they hoped for. Some of them fail to get proper return on their financial investment, have to spend too much time or don’t invest enough time( Casserly, 2013).
One of the obstacles standing in the way of SMEs owners or managers, is the failure to understand they need to invest in social media in the same seriousness they invest in any other part of their business. This investment include the usage of professional tools, getting the right advice when needed, and put in the right resources.
Consumer vs Professional products
There is nothing easier then to download a free app, such as WeChat, Line, or WhatsApp, and start using it for business purposes. But is it appropriate? These applications and the like are consumer grade products. Most of them were developed with a specific financial model in which the users information is the real raw material. This information is used to generate revenue to the developers. Commercial entities probably don’t want their, sometime confidential, information to be the basis for someone else’s value creation.
SMEs don’t have to use enterprise level applications which are expensive and probably an overkill. There are several scalable professional products with reasonable pricing structure. One of those is SLACK, a group communication application that offer enhanced security, archiving of messages, priority support, and other business specific features.
Procure Professional Advice
Social media is all around us, both in our professional life and in our private life. This gives some people the notion that social media is not a serious business. After all, look at all of those cute cats videos floating around and the funny pictures with filters on Snapchat.
However for businesses it is serious. A wrong price on the company’s website, or an inappropriate post on its Facebook page, can cause damage to the reputation and brand image of a business. Big corporations might get out of trouble using a good PR company or a counter media blitz, however SMEs cannot afford that. They need to be more careful up front.
Getting a good advice on how to set up the business social media presence, how to operate it, who should operate it and so forth, is invaluable. SMEs should invest in acquiring the right knowledge regarding social media. It is no different then to get the right advice on tax liabilities or health and safety responsibilities.
Don’t Be Cheap
Most SMEs have limited financial resources and cost free services are always welcomed. These days, almost everything can be done on the Web, or social media, for free. Websites can be set up for free and pictures and images at no cost can be found in abundance. However “free” is almost never without a price. Compromises such as limited functionality, a partial use of generic domain name, or even advertisements from third parties, may project an unprofessional image of the business.
There is probably no need to spend extravagant sums of money, but it is worth while to invest in the company’s online presence. Image is important.
Social media holds great potential to assist SMEs to flourish in the modern economy. It can assist in bringing new clients, engage existing, and instil new knowledge in the business. But it needs to be done right and in a professional way, or else it may cause more harm than good. It needs to be Business Class.
Casserly B. (2013), “Why Small Businesses Are Losing On Social Media”.
Rugova B., Prenaj B (2016), “Social media as marketing tool for SMEs: opportunities and challenges”.