How can SMBs adopt social media marketing in a post-pandemic world?

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, global lockdowns and social distancing measures have forced businesses around the world to close their doors and turn their attention to social and digital marketing techniques. When a physical presence cannot be maintained, establishing a digital presence has never been so crucial to businesses of all sizes.

Experts have suggested that small- and medium-sized businesses can no longer afford to operate without a social media presence. From communicating with customers and clients, to securing new business and launching new marketing techniques and campaigns, most businesses now understand the importance of establishing a digital presence.

However, not all businesses were prepared for the shift to social when the pandemic struck. Many were comfortable with their existing models and more traditional marketing techniques. Many simply failed to understand the importance of marketing online, at least on a social media channel. 

But over the past 15 months, the need to make the leap has been increasingly difficult to ignore, the problem has been figuring out how to take the first step, and who can help you make it.

Here, we’ll be exploring the benefits of social media marketing, how it evolved at an unprecedented rate in 2020, and how a third-party agency like OneAgency can help brands make the transition from traditional to transformative marketing.

Audience behaviour

Audiences did as was expected of them in 2020, and turned to the digital space. Dr Ronnie Das, a Digital Marketing lecturer, believes that 30 years of advances in online engagement was made in just nine months in 2020. Globally, social platforms gained 490 millions new users – a 13.2% increase year on year. This is the most significant recorded increase in social media users in three years, reinforcing the belief that an online presence is nothing short of a necessity now for businesses, regardless of company size, headcount or current brand awareness.

The results of TalkWalker research in Germany, France and the United Kingdom found that the number of consumers purchasing items online increased between 25% and 80% in the first weeks of the pandemic. Furthermore, 60% of these respondents indicated that they intend to continue primarily shopping online, even after restrictions are eased. The shift from in-store purchasing to online has been advanced dramatically by the onset of the pandemic.

In the United Kingdom, there are 53 million active social media users. This accounts for 77.9% of the population. Yet, almost a quarter (24%) of small UK businesses don’t have any social media presence whatsoever. So, the real question is, why are so many businesses hesitant to invest in social media and digital marketing?

What’s stopping them?

According to research conducted by The UK Domain and smallbusiness.co.uk, 15% of the respondents believe they already have enough customers, and don’t need to market for more online. This mindset is one that is harmful to a brand’s progression, and can hinder it from both reaching such a vast audience and making a number of sales online.

However, 23% of respondents don’t have the required knowledge to use such specific marketing tools and techniques to promote their businesses. They are also often limited by time and resources, hindering their ability to learn these processes.

We believe that a significant proportion of these businesses are struggling to implement marketing strategies due to a lack of employees to call on to carry out this responsibility. Either through a lack of training, or a lack of available resources to employ a qualified individual in a suitable role.

Should you turn to a third party?

SkyNova surveyed 402 American entrepreneurs who were working for, and often owning, SMBs. The survey found that 89% of respondents have been taking control of their social media efforts on their own. Just 18% of respondents have been relying on a third party, such as an agency or freelancer, for support.

It’s easy to see why it’s an attractive prospect, attacking the challenge that is marketing without help from a third party. On the face of it, it appears to be the cheaper option that, when it pays off, will come with an incredible return on investment – considering the investment will be next to nothing. Unfortunately, it’s never this simple, and this is where entrepreneurs make costly mistakes.

The SkyNova survey found that the majority of businesses (70%) have been adopting a trial-and-error approach to social media marketing, which comes as no real surprise, as many are tackling it for the first time. The learning curve for social media marketing is difficult to manage, and while trial and error can seem an easy place to start, it will quickly become time-consuming and ineffective.

Clearly, it’s not worth wasting your time, stumbling through a marketing strategy that could ultimately prove to be a failure. We here at OneAgency understand this. Our marketers have been through all of the techniques and tools, scaled the learning curve, and now make up part of an effective team capable of managing powerful marketing strategies.

Turning to a third party makes the shift to social media a lot smoother and more comfortable in your endeavours to establish stronger, more fruitful relationships with consumers and make better connections to communicate.

An agency providing a team of qualified specialists also eliminates the need to employ marketers, meaning you won’t have to go through that lengthy hiring process, spend any time or money on training, and most importantly, you will see returns on your investment far sooner.

Aligning with a positive message

Not only is establishing a relationship with your consumers becoming increasingly important, but it is also becoming vital that your brand carries a strong, positive message on social media to accompany its presence. 

In 2018, Forbes found that 88% of consumers surveyed in the UK and US wanted to align with brands that carried strong, positive messages. Audiences are becoming increasingly interested in seeing what a company does behind closed doors, and showing that your business is morally in-line and committed to a positive message can improve your connection with both potential and existing customers.

More than half of the world is now active on social media, with approximately 4.2 billion active users at the end of 2020, which equates to 53.6% of the population. On social media, your brand is exposed to a larger audience than it ever has been before. The digital space can be full of misinformation, malicious messages and in general, the all too familiar fake news. 

Accountability, authenticity and transparency have become paramount to success, with genuine empathy and advocacy also taking an increasingly prominent seat at the table. With effective social listening, another offering that an agency can very successfully offer as part of its marketing solutions, your business can easily align itself with a message it truly cares for, and one that consumers can also become affiliated with.

For SMBs, the increased scrutiny that industry giants have been coming under in recent years has opened a gap. It is becoming increasingly apparent that a modern consumer will lean towards the more trustworthy, positive, smaller brand, rather than opt for the industry giant, name brand business.

However, it is important to remember that there is a thin line between being genuine and words without meaning. You have to be committed to the cause that you believe in. As brand responsibility continues to take centre stage, your marketing efforts will show your consumers if you’re worth purchasing from.

So, how can you ensure that you’re meeting such a vast audience with the correct tone and message? 

A qualified team of marketing professionals, with access to industry-leading social listening tools and techniques, is an effective way to achieve this. The OneAgency team can produce content in the appropriate voice for your brand and its audience, through its years of experience and access to the industry’s best tools and softwares.

The value of social media marketing

Without a digital presence, you’re not only missing out on reaching what is the largest potential audience your brand has ever been in front of. You’re also risking being left behind entirely by your competitors who were ahead of the game long ago.

In 2020, $22.07 billion was spent on digital adverts. $5.84 billion of that total was spent just on social media paid advertising which, according to the figures from We Are Social, was a 7.1% increase year on year compared to 2019. It’s only fair to expect this spend to continue to increase throughout 2021.

The We Are Social report found that 23.2% of internet users aged between 16-64 discovered new brands or products through adverts on social media channels. This is more than the amount of internet users that discovered products or brands through website adverts (20.5%). Clearly, the tide is changing in the advertising space, and social media should be becoming a very crucial part of a business’ marketing strategy.

Help your audience find you

Not only are brands spending more money on social media channels and finding new business, but consumers themselves are discovering brands and products more frequently on social media platforms. 

According to the We Are Social report, 28% of internet users researched the brands they were interested in on social media, instead of opting for a more traditional approach, such as visiting a website or viewing video adverts. 

Traditional marketing methods, whilst still effective and relevant, must now make room for newer methods of marketing, such as digital and social media. Social commerce is becoming an increasingly popular trend in the industry, with Instagram Shopping a prime example. Social platforms are beginning to provide an on-demand service to purchase items that doesn’t require you to leave the platform once, another huge hint as to where the future is heading for social commerce and eCommerce in general.

A team that is well-versed in the newer marketing techniques of the modern world can help your business go from selling locally, to competing on a national scale, leaning on vast amounts of expertise and experience in eCommerce and social commerce tools.

Deciding where to place your brand is one of the most difficult decisions to make. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the different platforms available. Working with an agency can help you discuss your needs, and figure out which platform best suits the audience that you are hoping to reach.

Some of the most significant statistics when considering the benefits of each social media platform and their audiences:

– Facebook ads can reach 2.18 billion users, this equates to 36% of the world’s population over the age of 13

– Twitter has 192 million “monetisable daily active users”

– 200 million Instagram users visit a business profile at least once a day

– 81% of Instagram users visit the app to research products and services

– The ROI on Pinterest is twice as high for retail brands compared to competitor platforms

– 70% of YouTube viewers made a purchase after seeing a product advertised on a video

– TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2020, and has more than 800 million users now

Is working with an agency worth it?

From the studies we’ve researched, it’s clear that establishing a strong presence on social media for your brand is more than just a good way to spread awareness, and will continue to do so as we shift into a post-pandemic environment. 

Trying to learn and successfully carry out marketing techniques on tools that take experts years to master can be incredibly detrimental to the progress a brand can make. Especially when trying to climb the mountain with no previous experience. 

Brands must come round to the idea of investing into their social media, which means investing into an agency or another third party to manage it for them, especially when they don’t have the means in place with a marketing team.

We know that working with an agency eliminates the need for blindly trialing new methods. Not only are agencies well-versed in the best techniques and practices, but they also often have visibility across a number of different platforms and sectors, providing otherwise unknown insights. With social media algorithms changing constantly, this insight can prove to be highly valuable, and crucial to the continual development and improvement of strategies.

As social media and digital marketing continue to grow in importance, businesses must begin considering working with agencies and third parties. The rewards, both in terms of time and financial investment, will outweigh the initial positives of discovering how to market online.

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