A growing number of small firms are utilising social media tools as part of their web marketing efforts.
This is according to a survey of small US businesses conducted by Constant Contact, which shows 81 per cent of respondents are actively using social media to get their message across to their target audience, compared with 73 per cent six months previously.
More firms also expressed an awareness of the benefits of social marketing, such as its low cost, ease of use and the fact their customers utilise social media. Around two-thirds use the channel alongside other platforms like email.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given its widespread market penetration, Facebook is the most used social tool among small businesses, although an increasing number of firms are harnessing Twitter – 76 per cent today compared with 60 per cent earlier this year.
The poll also revealed that six in ten small companies respond to all customer comments made on their Facebook or Twitter accounts, whether they are of a positive or negative nature, which Constant Contact social media general manager Mark Schmulen highlighted as an example of good practice.
He said: "Small businesses … already know all about providing a great customer experience and they are showing that they can carry that over to the world of social media."
Small business social media: what to say
Interestingly, the respondents who said they don't reply to all customer comments revealed they either don't think it's needed, don't have enough time or simply have no idea what to actually say.
Here are some pointers if you're not sure how to respond to social media comments:
• Express thanks for positive feedback. Example: 'Glad you enjoyed your visit – hope you come back again soon!'
• Answer questions in as helpful a manner as possible. If someone asks whether you accept returns, don't simply say 'yes'. Outline the details of your returns policy or post a link to the website page on which it is available.
• Don't delete or ignore negative comments. Turn them to your advantage – do any of the complaints highlight areas in which you could improve? If it's an issue that needs looking at in detail, thank the poster for letting you know of the problem and ask them and anyone else to give more details.