In today’s digital age, small business owners are told that if they aren’t online, they’re missing out on endless opportunities. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp – you need it all to succeed. And the most important part of your online presence? Targeted web advertisements to reach all of your key demographics. CAN Capital’s Small Business Health Index however, found that only 15 percent of small business owners actually consider social media marketing like Facebook ads to be extremely important to their growth strategy. Twenty-eight percent went so far as to say they are not at all important.
So what’s the answer then? Specialty online marketing firms are on the rise, but the small business owners who are in the trenches every day seem to be saying that the services they offer aren’t really necessary. In fact, a recent articlefrom The Wall Street Journal reported many times these “targeted” ads don’t even reach the correct audiences and therefore, aren’t the value add to businesses that they promise to be. Business owners report frequent instances of their social media advertisements, which they’ve paid quite a bit for, being seen by consumers hundreds of miles away from their local coffee shops or book stores. A business owner in Miami told of multiple phone calls from consumers in Texas and Virginia – not exactly the audiences she was trying to reach!
Now, we certainly don’t want to discount the power of online marketing in helping small businesses grow their presence and reach audiences beyond their borders. However, if you’re a small, family restaurant looking to get information out to your customers about a special, one-time promotion, you want to be sure that it is going to people nearby who can take advantage of it right away. Perhaps the potential customers in Virginia will stop by the restaurant next time they’re in Miami, but that may not be for months. What’s going to pay the bills until then? Furthermore, according to a December 2012-January 2013 Gallup survey, 62 percent of consumers say social media has no influence at all on their purchasing decisions. Only 5 percent say it has a great deal of influence.
So what is the answer?
Do we all give up the internet then? Are those hours spent branding your Yelp page wasted? Not at all! The key to online marketing is optimization. Rather than pouring money into advertisements on Facebook, Google and similar sites, use your social and online tools to engage with customers and build a community. In CAN Capital’s recent Master Class with small business expert, Gene Marks, he said that in today’s market we don’t need to sell to our customers, we need to educate them. Use your Facebook and Twitter pages to offer insight on your specialty. If you’re a local bookshop, share summer reading recommendations. Local clothing store? Link to articles from different magazines and blogs about current trends and designers.
Your online presence is all about building the right audience. Web ads may appear to be the quick, easy way to do that, but in the long run, building a community and strong brand identity will bring you continued success in the years to come.