How Should Small Businesses Use Social Media?

By Emma Kelly, founder and owner of Elevate PR

Social Media for Small BusinessSocial media is now just another part of the marketing mix for the SME sector. Recent figures show that 68% of Irish people are on Facebook, there are almost 550,000 Irish profiles on LinkedIn, 11% of adults over the age of 15 have a Twitter account and YouTube has 1.4 million Irish users*. These are numbers that cannot be ignored.

Social media is now part of everyday communications for all types of businesses, from global brands to small businesses. It is more than just a marketing and public relations channel; it is a new vehicle to collaborate and interact with customers. No longer is the question, ‘Should we be on social media?’, instead the question is ‘What is the correct social media channel for our product / target market and what is the strategy for that channel be it Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and / or YouTube?’

How should small businesses approach social media? David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and “World Wide Rave” says to think of social media as a cocktail party. “You don’t go to a cocktail party and go into the middle room and scream at the top of your lungs and say, ‘Buy my products.’ … What works is you have some meaningful conversation first. And that’s just how social media works.”

When we manage social media for our clients, the usual rules apply:

  • Listen online to what is being said about the brand or company
  • Identify the target market / audience
  • Define success from the beginning, by setting goals and key performance indicators
  • Measure and review the campaign

With some additional rules for online:

  • Strong content is central to engaging with an online audience, what you say has to be of interest to your fans/followers
  • Establishing share of voice and tracking it takes time 

Social media provides many opportunities for small businesses to interact with existing and potential customers. While social media is cost effective, (i.e. it costs nothing to set up a Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn account apart from time), it does take time to listen to what your audience is saying about you online, build followers / likes / subscribers, create compelling content that will engage your audience, make them want to interact with you and ultimately share it with their followers and manage your brand’s online reputation and that’s where a PR or a digital agency can come in and provide support.

Embracing social networking for the first time can be daunting, so join me, Amanda Webb from and Beatrice Whelan, Social Media and Content Specialist at Sage Ireland, for a live Facebook Chat, ‘Lunch n’ Learn’, which focuses particularly on answering your questions around social media for small businesses.

*Sources – Eurobarometer poll 2011 and

Emma KellyAbout The Author – Emma Kelly
Emma Kelly is the founder and owner of Elevate PR, with over 20 years experience in corporate and consumer PR and marketing. On the board of the Public Relations Consultants Association, Emma is a member of the Public Relations Institute of Ireland and regularly speaks and lectures on social media and PR. Set up in 2001 Elevate is a mid size, full service PR agency, with clients ranging from blue chip and semi-state organisations to charities and owner entrepreneurs. Elevate’s approach is strategic with an emphasis on innovative ideas brought to life through engaging and creative activity. Elevate’s current client list includes Sage Ireland, Nokia, Volkswagen, Moët Hennessy, TK Maxx, SEAT, Colgate-Palmolive, Heatons, Veuve Clicquot and Grey Goose Vodka. Elevate can be found here on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and their Blog.
  • Please let me know if you’re looking for a author
    for your weblog. You have some really good articles and I feel I would be a good asset.
    If you ever want to take some of the load off,
    I’d really like to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.
    Please send me an email if interested. Regards!

  • look great today.

  • Thanks Emma for some very useful information. It is a really good tip to define success from the beginning and work back from there. Then it becomes a much less daunting task. I also think that sometimes people focus on the social media channels themselves rather than the content for these channels so loved your tip about strong content.

  • There are so many great reasons for using social media in the small business community but I think some of the most beneficial reasons are that effective use of social media is a way to inject personality into your business dealings  (people buy into you before they buy from you), positions your as an expert in your field and shows your passion and commitment to your product/service and your customers.