Social media – who wins? Large or small businesses?

Large vs. Small

I came across the following article courtesy of @miketrap on Twitter, “Small Businesses Show Social Networks Some Love“, which reveals research by AMI-Partners that small businesses have been quicker to adopt social media than some have contended.

It got me thinking about the differences in social media adoption between large and small corporations and the challenges and benefits faced by each:

1. Free social media tools

This is advantageous to both.  Tools such as Google Alerts, Netvibes (a platform that allows individuals to assemble their favorite widgets, websites, blogs, etc. – in one place) and many others allow marketing departments to monitor what is being said on the web and participate in the conversation without a large upfront investment.  As the social media marketplace matures, I’ve no doubt that more sophisticated tools (e.g. Radian 6 ), will be in demand.

For larger companies, paid for tools are increasingly important to integrate activities across various departments in order to obtain a single view of activities, campaigns, tools, and conversations.

2. Skills

AMI-Partners’ research reveals “80 percent of small-business respondents say that they use social networking in their personal lives” .  The growing use of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. means that users are becoming more au fait with social media tools and the lines between personal and business use are blurring.  For smaller businesses, this can be even more of an advantage as there are fewer people to train and sell the benefits of social media.

For larger corporations, this can be one of the challenges.  Similar to the new product diffusion curve below, any new market development goes through a lifecyle, from innovators and early adopters who embrace the technology and instantly see the benefits, to the laggards.  Within a large corporation, unless you enable the early adopters to leverage these social media vehicles, they can find their hands tied by rigid processes and procedures and grow frustrated at the lack of buy-in from others within the company.

New Product Diffusion Curve

Often the challenge for larger organisations is that the people who should be engaging with customers, who have the subject matter expertise, either don’t have the time or the understanding of the tools to fully leverage them.  It may need to become part of the employee incentive system in order to change behaviour and encourage participation.

3. Access to technology

The AMI research showed the second most popular reason for small businesses engaging in social media, after customer networking, was networking with peers.  This is where larger corporations do have an advantage.  For example, at IBM we have at least 32 different social networking applications, allowing 400,000 people to collaborate across 170 countries.  Whilst we may not always have the agility of a smaller organisation in this space, we definitely have a wealth of internal tools which allow people to familiarise themselves with this new way of collaborating, internally and externally.

4. SEO benefits

For both small and large organisations looking to increase brand recognition and build their presence online, the benefits of social media for content syndication and generating fresh, new content (e.g. blogs), thus increasing SEO rankings, is huge.  I would think that this is even more imperative for a smaller organisation if they don’t have a large advertising budget to drive brand awareness.

So long as companies have established defined, measurable social media objectives, it’s clear that there are benefits to all organisations, regardless of their size.

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One thought on “Social media – who wins? Large or small businesses?

  1. Wendy,

    Great insights into the differences in social media adoption between large and small corporations. And I strongly agree with the conclusion that all organizations, large and small can benefit from social media, but defined, measurable objectives are key. Thanks for the Radian6 shout out!

    Warren Sukernek
    Director of Content Marketing
    Radian6

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