Sunday, 27 November 2011

SME Owners Fear Social Media Savvy Rivals

I've just received some feedback on a survey of 300 SME chiefs aged 40+ about their attitudes to social media, including popular websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and, if I'm honest, I find some of the content a little disturbing.

Many people suffer from unfortunate conditions, fears or phobia, that prevent them living full and active lives. It would appear that Social Media Phobia could be taking root and will restrict business from achieving their full potential and living full and activity lives. I use this analogy not to belittle sufferers of personal phobias, but to highlight the potential impact on a business if its owners/managers run scared of this evolving communication medium.

Before I proffer further views, here are the summarised findings:

- 80% of older Smaller and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) chiefs reportedly admitted to being afraid of being left behind by more social media-savvy rivals.
- They were also sceptical about the merits of social media to promote their products/services
- 77% said they had experimented with social media to promote their businesses
- 40% felt it was much more relevant for younger business people
- 25% of those polled felt that using social media to try to promote their business was just “one big fat waste” of their personal time
- 57% said that social media had made a “positive contribution” on business turnover
- Just 1% felt that the reputation of their business had been tarnished by comments made on social media sites
- 75% Felt Social media was constituted of just Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

(This is all according to a UK-wide poll by Gresham Public Relations, in association with www.onenewspage.com.)

Now to my personal thoughts on these findings;

Well firstly I don't believe they are especially surprising. As a 40+ (Well 50+ if I'm being honest!) SME owner/manager, I was highly sceptical about social media; only joining the "club" in early 2009. Working with as many business owners as I do, I would say the report reflects my own observations and findings.

All the survey responses indicate to me a need for; more effective communication of the opportunity presented by Social Media for SME's, to slay the myths around skills and time, to pass on the knowledge to allow SME owners to create effective and appropriate messages.

It is my belief that there are a number of common barriers to entry to the world of Social Media including;

- Fear it is too complicated to grasp
- Takes too much time to do it
- Requires a high degree of "tec" knowledge to do it
- Fear of the unknown
- Belief of sufferers that they are too old to learn

I've seen enough positive feedback, talked to and advised enough 40+ business owners using Social Media, to understand that if it's done correctly it delivers results. By done correctly I mean "the right message, in the right place", just as with any other marketing medium.

From experience I can confirm it is not complicated to learn, or to do. I would observe that some exponents do weave a bit of smoke and mirrors around the skills needed, building myths that then form a barrier to entry in the minds of some. Rather than creating the customers these pedlars of complications want, they actually create a total failure to engage. Meaning that both sides lose out.

With the easy to use management tools available it need not be time consuming. To be honest time spent on Social Media is an investemnt, unlike that spent watching the TV.

No real 'tec' knowledge is required, I'm proof of that. Yes you develop some low lying understanding as you learn by doing, but for many that is the best way to grow.

Fear of the unknown is a dep seated trait, but we can conquer it, and in this case it isn't going to be fatal!! Perhaps this should be replaced with the fear of getting it wrong, or of 'failing'. Personally I would rather do something, than nothing. The latter is definitely a wrong course of action in my mind.

Finally to old. Sorry not buying that one. My father retired in 2000, at the age of 80, then went and got his City and Guilds qualification in using computers the following year.

The comment in the report that gave me the biggest concern was that about Social Media being for younger business people. This makes me question the understanding of those making such a comment in regards to marketing, surely they should be thinking about its relevancy to their customers, not the age of the business owner?

The survey number is small, but as perviously commented my own observations tally well with the findings. At a time when we are all having to work much smarter to get a share of the market it is pleasing to see that the majority of respondents reported a positive perception of the impact on their business. We all need to make the most of the opportunity being offered through Social Media. I would suggest speaking to a reputable expert, check out previous customers and their claims of achievement, to see where your business could get ahead of the competition.

Please leave a comment and until the next post, remember its your passion and your actions that will take your business forward.