So, you are one of those holdouts with an offline business. You’re not alone. But even if you’ve been successful without the internet, sooner or later you’ll have to deal with social media.
social media has become a worldwide phenomenon. The growth in usage statistics is staggering across the numerous platforms that make up this online world. In 2016 alone the number of social media users rose by 176 million bringing the total number of active social media users to 2.3 billion.
Despite these astonishing statistics, the big question still remains…
Does Social Media Belong in Your Business Plan?
The starting point for answering the question “Does social media belong in your business plan?” is the understanding that a business plan is a living, breathing, ever-changing document. It is no secret that too many offline business owners of small to medium size businesses either don’t develop a business plan at all or if they do, they don’t revisit it periodically to keep it fresh and relevant.
While social media has existed for some time now, its use for business is a rather recent development. This has come about as a result of its increasing acceptance by the population in general, businesses finding ways to capitalize on it, larger businesses dedicating resources to it and the social media platforms offering more business-oriented capabilities.
Those business owners that are keeping their plans current are likely to already have included it as a consideration. For others, this new technology may force them to dust off their current business plan and take a fresh look from a new perspective.
So how should you incorporate social media into your business plan? To answer that question, let’s examine some of the key elements of a business plan.
Has social media had an impact on the specific industry related to your business?
For example, if you own a restaurant you need to know whether any of these platforms could help you grow your business. In this case, two immediately come to mind – Yelp and Foursquare.
It would be important to be proactive with the use of these platforms in your business planning.
You must keep in mind that tech is not just a ‘young man’s’ game anymore. We’ve about reached that point where you’re no longer surprised to see a grandma on a smartphone.
This means no matter your demographic, they are tech-savvy. It’s why AARP has such a large social media presence. Everyone is online.
In this section of your business plan have you analyzed how your competitors are using social media platforms? For example, do they have a business page on Facebook? Do they use Facebook ads?
Along these same lines, you need to consider how investing in these platforms can help you with your competitive differentiation. How can you use them to make your business stand out from the rest?
It’s a simple way of assessing your needs. Look at other similar businesses and see if they are getting good results from social media. Business can be very collaborative so even if it’s not apparent how good the company’s ROI is, they may happily share it with you. Just please contribute something in return.
Organization and Management
The use of these technologies requires resources. Consideration needs to be given to whether these will be internal or external. In addition, social media can provide an effective platform for managing customer service, including issues. It has provided new methods for people to share their opinions about a business and its service.
It is important to follow these developments and pay attention to whether your customers are providing information to their online friends about your business.
Social media also keeps people from asking the same question over and over again. A simple tweet from your company’s social media account may be enough to quell the question of thousands of customers.
Now that’s a good ROI, wouldn’t you agree?
Marketing and Sales
This is a crucial area for those that decide to dedicate time, energy and money to the use of social media. A focused strategy is critical to the success or you may spend thousands of dollars with little return to show for it.
Consistent messages, attracting people to your products and converting them to customers requires proper business planning for successful execution.
It seems like nearly all sales at least start online. Nearly all of us go online before going in-store. Even just to check the general prices on Amazon. With that said, social media ties in nicely. Market and sell to your customers before they go to anyone else.
Unfortunately, most owners of small to medium size businesses spend money on online services such as a website that is never going to give them a return on their investment because the site is not likely to be found among the millions of websites that exist today. However, these new platforms can provide very cost effective alternatives for promoting your business.
New data released by email marketing software provider Yesmail shows that 91% of retail brands use two or more social media channels.
In summary, the growth of social media indicates that it is here to stay. That doesn’t mean that every platform will survive, however. It is important to periodically review your business plan to ensure that your offline business is taking advantage of the growth opportunities that social media has to offer.
This doesn’t mean you need to feel responsible for managing these social media campaigns. There are lots of young people who are eager to prove themselves and all you have to do is give them the keys, a modest budget, and watch the magic.
Okay, well, that’s not all there is to do. But those are ingredients that can lead to big results.
So should your offline business have a social media presence? Probably. No matter who your target demographic. Even if your demographic is children in Africa. Social media is still useful for letting everyone know what your company is doing for those children. Social media is about giving your company a voice. It’s not about pushing products, singing your praises, or posting funny cat meme’s on Friday’s.
Be there for those you care about.