Recently, I was a guest on Act Local Marketing for Small Business with host Kalynn Amadio. Each week, Kalynn shares information and actionable tips to help inspire and motivate small and medium businesses (SMBs) reach their business goals. In this episode, Kalynn and I discussed SMB Group’s 2014 Top Ten SMB Technology Trends and what they mean to the marketing and running of your business. This, the first of a four-part series, summarizes our discussion of “Social Media Marketing Stalls as SMBs Re-focus Marketing Practices” and “Progressive SMBs Use Technology as a Game Changer.”
Kalynn: Welcome back to Act Local Marketing for Small Business, Laurie. I just want to let you know that the show you were on last year, discussing the 2013 SMB trends, was the most downloaded interview that I have ever had on the podcast.
Laurie: Thanks, Kalynn and Happy New Year!
Kalynn: This is a perfect time of year for you to be on the show again because SMB Group recently published its 2014 Top Ten SMB Technology Trends. We won’t have time to go through all of them, and of course I’m more interested in the ones that are more relevant to marketing.
The first one I want to talk about is social media marketing. What you discovered might surprise a few people. Can you give some insight into that?
Laurie: As you know, SMBs have been rapidly adopting social media as a marketing tool, whether building a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or some combination thereof. In fact, more than half of small businesses and two-thirds of medium businesses are using social media for marketing.
But, more SMBs are realizing that even though they don’t need to spend a lot of money to establish a social media presence, social has a voracious appetite for more and more content. There’s a lot of pressure to keep the content fresh because that’s what keeps people coming back. This is wearing on some businesses.
It’s also tough to keep up with changing social media preferences, for instance, as millennials move from Facebook, for instance, to Snapchat or Instagram. So we predict that while social media marketing isn’t going away, it will stall a little as SMBs focus more on figuring out what really works and clicks with their target audiences.
Kalynn: Which makes a lot of sense. Google is a content monster; to get found you have to give it more and more content. But there has to be a happy balance between creating content and promoting your content. You need to promote your content more than once but you do have to find that balance. All audiences will probably be different depending on what market you’re in, how often they’re willing to hear the message before they start to tune it out, and you do need fresh content.
Laurie: Absolutely, and at the end of the day it’s all about converting social connections that you’re making into customers and advocates. So the first step is to look at how you can repackage and reuse content in different ways to reach a wider audience.
I’ll give you an example. Today we’re talking about our 2014 top ten trends list. We initially published it in December and sent it to clients, prospects and press via email marketing, and got good traction with it.
As the new year started, we created individual tweets about each prediction, and that sparked more interest. Now I’m talking about it here on your show. It’s just not feasible for most of us to create fresh content every day, so it’s important to repackage it in different ways.
We also see more SMBs integrating social media marketing with their marketing and sales applications to get more insight into what’s going on, how what they’re doing is working and to make the information more actionable from a sales and marketing perspective.
Kalynn: Your very first prediction was another one I wanted to talk about: technology as a game changer for SMBs.
Laurie:That’s our overarching theme because of what we’ve been seeing since we started doing our surveys 5 years ago.
SMBs split into some clearly defined segments. One segment is what we call Progressive SMBs, who share a few characteristics. They’re much more likely to view technology as a business enabler; they invest more in technology; and they are also more likely to be growing revenue than other SMBs.
This gap has been widening and we predict it continue to do so. Trends such as generational shifts, the sharing economy and new technology-fueled services that you may not even think about as technology solutions are accelerating this and reshaping what it means to be an SMB.
Kalynn: You talk about the generational shifts; I talk a lot about this with my primary audience, baby boomers, age 50 and over. There’s a drastic difference in communication styles between boomers and 20-somethings and millennials… people don’t retire early as often as they used to… that means there are many technologies and ways people are communicating. And also many ways that a business needs to be able to converse with customers and prospects, and it can be overwhelming.
Laurie: It can, and that relates to social media too. I think everyone should be spending at least some time with social media just to keep a pulse on what’s going on. It’s really important.
But we also see how Progressive SMBs are increasingly capitalizing on technology, cultural and demographic shifts to create new market niches and invent entirely new businesses. Just think about the businesses that have started up in the last few years and have been replaced in the last few years. I think the last Blockbuster finally closed. Now we’ve got Roku and we can stream everything whether it’s from Netflix or Hulu or whatever. There’s also a shift in talent acquisition and management… with more use of outsourced services or Elance for contractors or freelancers instead of hiring salaried employees.
Or, in rethinking office space. Shared office space and shared IT infrastructure services are really growing in popularity. These are all ways to think about your business in a different light. And most often technology provides the fuel that businesses need to really get ahead.
Kalynn: Right, and in case people are not aware, Elance and oDesk, who recently merged, are websites where you can virtually hire temporary staffing, either for projects, or on a day-by-day or week-by-week basis.
They serve as middlemen, but protect you because they help with any disputes if things weren’t done well or not to your satisfaction. And they make it easier to track everything and for somebody not to get taken advantage of; either freelancer or the business owner.
Laurie: Yes, it’s basically a technology platform to help you manage the projects, execute the payments. The take care of all of the transaction stuff for you. People bid on the jobs, and you can see the ratings of each Elancer or oDesker, and you pick the bid you like.
At a higher level, we see that these more agile, Progressive SMBs are taking advantage not just of technology per se but of solutions that are built on technology and also the sharing economy. Whether it’s shared workers, shared office space or shared IT infrastructure in the cloud or shared workers, you don’t have to own all your resources. As a matter of fact, sometimes it’s better not to.
Kalynn: Absolutely; there’s less headache often if you don’t own them. And, you can adjust more quickly and scale up and scale down more quickly through projects, so it’s actually a really good thing.
In the second of this four-part series, I’ll recap Kalynn’s and my conversation about “Mobile Management Becomes a Priority as SMB Mobile App Use Soars.” You can listen to the complete podcast here.
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