Benefits and Barriers to Social Media for Small and Mid-Size Businesses: Policies and Protocols

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By Gina F. Rubel, Esq.

The use of social media marketing by small and mid-size businesses has skyrocketed during the last decade. According to data released by BIA/Kelsey, more than three-quarters (77.6 percent) of small and mid-size companies reported using social media to promote their businesses, a number that increases year after year. While Facebook remains the leader among the platforms, Instagram is catching up rapidly. Snapchat is starting to gain small business users, particularly in the consumer marketing arena. Many small businesses targeting Generation Z and Millennials report that Snapchat delivers better ROI than the others.

There are many benefits to social media marketing. One of the biggest is increased exposure and traffic to a company’s website, today’s primary front door. A study conducted in 2017 found that 88 percent of marketers thought that social media had increased exposure for their business, and 78 percent of marketers found that social media helped them increase traffic to their websites.

Other benefits include:

  • Brand awareness, recognition and recall
  • Lead generation and increased sales
  • Crowdsourcing and referrals
  • Customer and audience engagement, service and support
  • Crisis communications and reputation management
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Analytics and data for refining marketing efforts

While there are many benefits to social media marketing for small and mid-size businesses, there also are barriers:

  • Budget: Companies should include the creation of a social media program in their marketing budget. This will help develop their online reputation and educate employees on how to engage in social media.
  • Buy-in: It is important for every company, no matter the size, to manage its online reputation. The first step is to understand the benefits of social media engagement and to educate leadership about why social media has become so important.
  • Too Time Consuming: A strategically planned and well-managed social media program can reduce the amount of time it takes and assist businesses with managing their social media platforms. There are various social media aggregate tools that can be used to streamline the social media engagement. Some include: CoSchedule, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Buffer.
  • Lack of Understanding / Training / Policy: Make time to learn how to engage with social media and put protocols in place for ethics, compliance and common-sense usage.

Using Social Media Policies Effectively to Grow Your Small Business

Every business, no matter how big or small, should have a social media policy, and should understand foundational elements of taking control and managing social media.

Policies must address:

  • Acceptable use: Small businesses need to determine acceptable and common-sense use of social media, a code of conduct, addressing what can be posted, how to respond to social media comments, and acceptable language usage.
  • Dedicated email: A dedicated email address should be created and associated with all of the company’s social media accounts. Make sure that the business creates the social media accounts with its own information instead of an employee or intern as the company’s page will be linked to that person’s personal accounts.
  • Employee access:  List which employees, by title or responsibility, are permitted access to the company’s social media accounts. The employee access clause should include employee monitoring of company-owned devices, so they are aware of limited privacy. Furthermore, an attorney should regularly review this portion of the policy.

In its most simple form, a social media policy or code of conduct should teach employees that when posting on social media as an individual, they need to disclose who they are and their relationship to the business, protect the company when sharing information online, and use common sense. Businesses must be transparent with their social media presence, protect employees, and employ a professional, straightforward approach to social media engagement.

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Gina Rubel is the professional that corporate and law firm leaders call upon for high-stakes public relations, media training, crisis planning, and incident-response support, including high profile litigation media relations. An attorney and public relations expert, Gina leads Furia Rubel Communications, Inc., an agency supporting business with their growth through integrated marketing, PR, reputation management, and content marketing. Contact her at gina@furiarubel.com or @GinaRubel.

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