Why small businesses should not rely solely on social media
Irish consumers are heavy users of social media: 65% of Irish adults are on Facebook, nearly 40% are on Instagram, and 33% have Twitter accounts. Amongst these social media users, the vast majority are engaging with their social media accounts on a daily basis. *
As a result, for SMEs, a social media profile represents a powerful means of connecting with customers, enhancing interaction, and driving sales and footfall.
That said, it is vitally important that small businesses do not rely solely on social media channels to engage with their customers online – a lesson that has become particularly apparent this week in light of both Facebook and Instagram outages.
For businesses whose entire online presence consists of their social media profiles, the unexpected Facebook and Instagram outages resulted in lost sales and lost revenues, amongst other unforeseen challenges.
Rented, not owned
Fortunately, the outages were relatively short-lived. However, it serves as an important reminder to SME’s that social media profiles are ‘rented’, not owned. At any given time, a provider can alter its terms of service, restrict access to an audience, or limit what analytics can reveal about customer behaviour.
Critically, SMEs with a dedicated digital presence (website) remain fully in control of their platform.
This allows them to remain in contact with their customers and to draw upon a robust digital infrastructure that enables them to continue to sell through their online store, click-and-collect service, or voucher booking system at all times.
When it comes to e-commerce, maintaining a website plays a central role in building consumer trust.
According to our .IE Consumer Trust Research, 84% of consumers say that they trust businesses that have their own website. Trust levels are significantly lower (36%) amongst businesses whose online presence consists only of social media.
For businesses looking to future-proof their digital presence, social media certainly has a role to play; with 87% of SMEs claiming their social media presence has helped to increase customer awareness.*
However, when it comes to best practice, these platforms should be used as a support channel to drive consumers back to a website. By doing so, this allows SMEs to maintain ownership of their sales channels and futureproof the long-term viability of their online business.
Resources for SMEs
Oonagh McCutcheon is our Corporate Communications Manager and National Director of our .IE Digital Town Programme.