In a global economy driven by increasingly empowered consumers, small and midsized enterprises (SMEs) are challenged to find new ways to stand out from the competition, create tighter bonds with their customers and enhance the growth of their business. Technological innovation has been a key source in maintaining competitive advantage for SMEs. Although expectations and emphasis for particular technologies varies depending on industry and geography, the overall trend is clear - social media is helping SMEs be closer to their customers, and in turn, grow their businesses.
In a recent SAP Global SME study with Oxford Economics, 2,100 SME senior executives across 21 countries including China, India, Australia and Singapore were asked about strategic initiatives that were most important to them in driving business growth. Of the respondents in Asia Pacific, over half noted expanding product and service offerings, 42 percent cited global expansion while 28 percent cited strengthening customer relationships. Not only must SMEs work on getting closer to existing customers and meeting their ever-changing demands, but they must also look for ways to increase their market share and attract new customers within both domestic and new geographical markets.
As a result, many SMEs have realized the importance of social media in gaining competitive advantage - 52 percent of respondents in Asia Pacific are widely using social media technologies today. Out of the SME senior executives in the region surveyed, over a quarter stated social media has helped drive better customer service. Additionally, nearly a quarter cited improved product and service development with social media.
Here is why. Personal involvement, engagement and connection are among some of the most important reasons consumers choose smaller businesses over larger brands. For SMEs, knowing how to capitalize on this for their growth initiatives is crucial. Social analytics and collaboration tools can help SMEs use social media to participate and reap rewards from engaging with customers more dynamically; learning how to craft a better brand, quickly responding to changes in customer preference and making sure their social media has a positive impact on business. Outlined below are six ways social media is helping SMEs do exactly that.
- Create a Community. Social media allows businesses to connect with customers interested in the products and services they offer. Using the right social media platforms and having access to the most relevant audience, allows SMEs to engage with their core customers and build communities.
- Expand reach. Leading social media platforms like Facebook, Google+, Twitter and YouTube, cater to worldwide audiences. By using these main platforms, SMEs have already taken their business global and extended their messaging. This is especially important for the large number of SMEs seeking to expand beyond their immediate locations.
- Maximize ROI on Marketing and Advertising. After engaging with their target audience, SMEs can use social media to promote their products and services in a more personal way. A picture is worth a thousand words, and having the ability to upload images, from an event or videos of product demos, for example, can bring SME offerings to life in a way that words alone cannot.
- Gauge customer sentiment. Social media analytics are more than numbers. Monitoring tools use analytics to measure consumer sentiment from data gathered on social sites. They provide the proof points needed to improve customer engagement, make marketing decisions, and link social media efforts with the bottom line. Through the use of analytics, SMEs can track customer input on products, services and offerings. Empowered with insight into customer sentiment, SMEs can improve customer segmentation, provide targeted offers, and increase upsell and cross sell opportunities.
- Manage brand reputation and identify opportunity. Statistics show that consumers largely base their purchasing decisions on the reviews, commentary and recommendations of people inside (and even outside) of their circles. By using online reputation management tools, SMEs can monitor for mentions of their brands, products and services, and promptly engage in those active conversations. Engaging with consumers in this way can help negate negative commentary, uncover unmet customer needs, and potentially help convert prospects into customers.
- Boost website traffic. The popularity of social media has essentially forced search engines such as Google to include social signals into their Search Engine Rankings (SEO) algorithm. SMEs that engage in social media and link to their webpages on their social media profiles, can expect to receive an increase in quality traffic - thanks to the combination of social and algorithm-ranked content.
- Improve Productivity. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, the average worker spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing e-mail, and nearly 20 percent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. By connecting employees to experts within the company, social media tools encourage collaboration, enabling employees to become source answers, share ideas, and move projects, products, and services forward faster.
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