Social media has proven to be a successful channel for many marketing professionals in terms of both organic content and paid advertising. However, small businesses with limited resources may struggle to keep up with trends in social media. How do organisations manage their social media presence in this evolving space?
In this article
While many SMEs understand the importance of learning how to use social media for small business marketing, taking full advantage of social networks to reach a wider audience, engage with customers, and gain insights into consumer behaviour can be resource intensive. Knowing where to focus limited resources is key to unlocking this potential.
Significantly, 83% of the Australian population are social media users. These latest figures represent a 25% increase in users since 2015, indicating an upward trend. However, some social networks vary in popularity, appealing to different demographics as they evolve. Therefore, organisations must remain savvy with the evolution and complexities of social media to launch successful campaigns targeted at the right audience.
To understand how small to midsize enterprises (SMEs) use social media for small business marketing, GetApp conducted a survey among companies with a presence on social networks. We interviewed 250 SME owners, executives, and managers involved in designing and implementing marketing strategies for their companies. In this article, we evaluate the importance of social media for business and how SMEs use these platforms to keep up with trends. Lastly, we look at some drawbacks organisations experience with social media.
The full survey methodology is at the end of this article.
How essential is social media to maintain a business?
With the increase in social media users, it is no surprise that 94% of survey respondents agreed that overall social media has positively impacted their business’ success —highlighting social media's importance for SMEs.
Digital transformation spurred on by the pandemic may also account for the upward trend of social media users. However, does the increasing popularity of social networks mean that SMEs should put more emphasis on social media to maintain their business?
Although social media is only one of many marketing channels companies use, half of our respondents said it is essential to maintain their business. A further 42% said it was important but not essential, and only 8% said it was not very important for their company.
The use of social media varies across industries, particularly on certain platforms. The rise of newer social media platforms in recent years may appeal to specific population demographics. Therefore, we investigated which social media platforms are currently the most popular for SMEs to reach their target audience.
What social media platform is most used by businesses?
The majority (82%) of respondents agree they make sure to be present on all relevant social media platforms, including new ones that come out. According to our survey, the two most popular social media platforms SMEs use are Facebook and Instagram. The majority of respondents (70%) have a presence on Facebook and over half (52%) use Instagram. Although these platforms are familiar, they have continued to enhance their platform and product, such as a new feed format, to compete in the evolving social media landscape.
However, due to the continually changing social media landscape, both organic and paid advertising also evolve with trends. Now more than ever, marketers need to research and optimise organic and paid media options to achieve their business needs.
Which are the most popular platforms for organic content and paid ads?
While Facebook and Instagram have the most users among the SMEs we surveyed, those users are less likely to invest in paid campaigns on these social networks compared with small businesses on other social platforms. 39% of respondents who use Facebook only post organic content, with the same proportion of Instagram SME users doing the same.
In contrast, just 27% of respondents with active accounts on Pinterest only use it for organic posts, and 40% invest purely in paid ads on this image-sharing platform, where users pin pictures and videos of products and ideas. Pinterest has 4 million users in Australia, just over a third of the size of Facebook’s audience of 11.5 million users.
In addition, the social media platform TikTok, launched in 2016, has shared new data showing how brands can benefit from combining paid and organic content. Organic content can help engage audiences reached through paid ads and allows brands to demonstrate to potential customers that they use the platform actively.
Significantly, the majority (57%) of respondents that use Tiktok use it for both organic and paid advertising. The platform is gaining traction with Generation Z and is the third most-downloaded app in Australia in 2021. 87% of survey-takers agree that they are always studying new trends on social media.
As such, businesses that use TikTok are placing higher importance on both organic and paid ads to reach business goals and benefit from the potential advantages of an integrated approach. It is vital for SMEs to track their return on investment (ROI) of social media campaigns so they can evaluate the effectiveness of their marketing and advertising efforts and how effectively social media attracts new customers. 37% of respondents said their company actively tracks ROI.
Identify and grow your target audience
Web analytics can be used to analyse who your website visitors are, how they found your site, and what actions they take while there. This data can help evaluate the effectiveness of paid and organic social media marketing campaigns. Web analytics applications can also assist with advertising on social media by evaluating the popularity and effectiveness of keyword search terms.
Choosing which social media platform to have a presence on is important, but knowing how to use those platforms as a tool is essential to growing your customer base and strategically building your brand and business.
How is social media being used in businesses today?
Social media has enabled small businesses to tell their stories and demonstrate their values and expertise on a global scale or even to target a local audience. Social platforms act as a stage for effective marketing and communications to connect positively with consumers and those who influence them.
To gain insights into SME social media marketing, we asked professionals responsible for designing and implementing marketing strategies for their main reasons for using social media. Attracting customers is the most common reason why 60% of respondents use social media, while 54% said they use these platforms to create brand awareness. Selling products and services is the third most cited reason, selected by 53% of respondents, and reaching target customers was indicated by 52%. The results indicate that SMEs see social media primarily an aid rather than a means to do business, although over half of companies surveyed use these platforms for eCommerce.
How do businesses use social media to communicate with their audience to attract new customers and create brand awareness? The majority (58%) of respondents said they mainly share new collections and product launches with their customers, followed by 54% who said they share discounts or promotions. This confirms that businesses use social media to achieve their primary objectives of attracting customers and creating brand awareness. Most (56%) of respondents still post traditional or static content to do this, while 50% post short-format videos such as Instagram reels or TikTok videos.
The rise of short-format content
Videos less than a minute long are gaining popularity among many users, especially younger generations. Short-format video content is appealing because it encourages creator and viewer participation. Creating short-form videos facilitates active viewer participation through content that is engaging.
However, businesses need a plan for creating engaging content that includes when and how often to publish that content on social media. Striking the right balance of communication can also be the key to successful marketing. Businesses should keep customers engaged with new promotional content, but posting too much may cause disinterest. According to our survey, the majority (78%) of SMEs with a presence on social media post new content more than once per week:
- 37% post a few times per week
- 27% post daily
- 14% post multiple times per day
How often should companies post on social media?
The optimum frequency and timing of social media posts depends on the brand, platform, and business objectives. Businesses will need to test out various strategies and track metrics to evaluate these against their goals and deduce their optimum frequency for posting on different social networks. In addition to scheduling publication across platforms to ensure consistency of posting, social media marketing tools can help track engagement and other key performance indicators (KPIs) against goals in one place to analyse the impact of different strategies.
What are the social media challenges that companies face?
Regularly posting takes a lot of time and energy and exposes content to competitors. It can be frustrating to invest resources into creating an original social media marketing strategy only to find that a competitor is copying your posts. The majority (39%) of respondents said companies copying their ideas is the biggest drawback of social media.
Additionally, the amount of time that goes into creating regular posts was the second most cited drawback, along with coming up with new, original, and creative content. 37% of respondents cited each of these as a challenge of using social networks.
A presence on social media is more than just a trend, it is a necessity for many of our respondents. However, unlocking social media's full potential and benefits comes at a cost. The time-demanding efforts and creative challenges of using social media require the full attention of a professional or team of professionals dedicated to creating a strategy and engaging with customers.
From our survey field, the majority (27%) have a marketing team to manage social media among other marketing tasks in their companies, followed by 22% that say they have a dedicated person or team working only on social media. Allocating the right resources to social media marketing, such as automating the scheduling, tracking, and management of online campaigns can help manage the drawbacks associated with these platforms. When developing a social media strategy, SMEs should evaluate the resources they need to deliver it and prioritise effort according to their goals.
Do SMEs follow a social media strategy?
How much should an SME invest in a social media strategy? Only 28% of respondents said having a proper social media strategy is expensive, marking costs as the least frequently cited drawback. A quarter of respondents (25%) estimated that between 21% and 30% of their marketing budget is allocated to social media, with a further third (34%) saying their company spent upwards of this amount —suggesting that its outcomes are worth the expense.
However, nearly half of respondents (48%) said they are still developing a social media strategy. Only 41% of respondents said they follow an established social media plan. This may be due to the ever-evolving landscape of social media, and the rise of new platforms. Popular content types also change with new trends, so a strategy needs to be accommodating. Part two of this two-part series on social media marketing in SMEs evaluates how companies strategise their social media use by analysing what trends they foresee and what software aids them in that process.
Data for GetApp’s SMEs and Social Media Survey 2022 was collected in December 2022 and comprises answers from 250 respondents. We selected our survey sample based on the following criteria:
- Australian resident
- SME owner, executive manager, senior manager, or manager
- Working on the board of directors or in the marketing or administration department in a company currently present on social media
- Responsible or frequently involved in the design or implementation of the marketing strategies
All participants were shown the following definitions of organic content and paid advertising:
- Organic social media content is any free content shared on social media accounts, including posts, videos, stories, and more.
- Paid social media, on the other hand, refers to posts or special placements on social media platforms that are supported by advertising budgets, as the name suggests. Paid social strategies are often deployed to increase followers, engagements, clicks, and views via precise audience targeting based on social media users’ demographics, locations, interests, and more.