Small and medium-sized local businesses appear to benefit from having a presence on Facebook as a way of reaching out to potential customers who are on the lookout for special offers and are influenced by positive comments from other members.
The latest figures published by Facebook show that the world’s most popular social network has 1.32 billion active users each month, i.e. an increase of 14% on July 2013. There is clearly an opportunity here for brands to reach customers through their fan pages, despite a negative recent report from independent technology and market research company Forrester, indicating that Facebook, which celebrates its tenth birthday this year, is not being all that successful in helping companies to use their growth drivers to best effect due to ineffective provision of social marketing solutions. The report’s conclusions may well be valid for large retailers and companies working B2B, but there is evidence that for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) doing business at local level, advertising on Facebook does have an impact on the purchasing act and in terms of steering people towards local bricks-and-mortar stores.
The preferred pre-purchase search channel
US digital marketing consultancy G/O Digital has now published the results of a survey carried out between 30 June and 2 July among 1,000 web-savvy shoppers between the ages of 18 and 29 to assess the impact on customers of Facebook promotion techniques used by small firms. In June Dan Levy, Facebook’s Director for Small Business, announced that 30 million SMEs have a fan page for their company on the social network. This strategy would appear to be beneficial since 80% of the shoppers polled stated that they regularly search online before going into a store. Having a presence on Facebook gives a business a greater chance of appearing in the search results since 62% of the survey respondents search on Facebook, compared with 12% who favour Pinterest and 11% who prefer to search on Twitter. In fact 80% of those polled said they were prepared to buy a product or service in a store if the online comments on the retailer or service provider were positive.
Local promotional offers most effective
When it comes to fostering user-engagement with a brand or merchant, sponsored publications and competitions have not proved all that effective. Some 38% of users are more influenced by offers and coupons that can be redeemed at the store or outlet. This being so, restaurants are the sort of business which users follow most, 38% of those polled by G/O Digital saying that they follow a restaurant page. Next most popular are the Facebook pages of beauty care providers, followed by education and training organisations. It would therefore seem advisable for smaller businesses to maintain a presence on social networks – especially Facebook – if they wish to reach their target audience and see their in-store traffic increase. However, social media expert Yasmin Bendror underlines that in order to be really effective, social media must be used as part of a planned strategy, not as a last resort.