By Patricia Martinez, Expedition PR
According to a recent study from the National Federation of Independent Businesses called Small Business: Lessons from the Recession, in 2007 less than 4% of women-owned businesses used social media for business purposes. Fast forward five years, the picture had dramatically changed. Half of the women-owned businesses were using a range of social platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to market and grow their business in 2012.
The marketing budget for direct mail, print, broadcast and trade show presence had decreased, and the investment in Internet marketing had increased to 35% (see table 1). What had happened? Female business owners had turned to social media during the recession. When the economy slowly stabilized, the use of social networks had become an integral part of their business and marketing strategies – and stayed. About 56% of the surveyed female entrepreneurs consider social media tools to be important or very important for their businesses.
Following is an overview of how businesses use three key platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Facebook is the most used social networks for both personal and business purposes. Especially local businesses such as restaurants, beauty salons/spa, clothing, shoes and jewelry stores discovered Facebook as an efficient and effective marketing tool that lets them target specific demographics, down to the Zip code and interests. Facebook promotions are popular marketing tools to attract new customers. Facebook’s Page Insights allow businesses to measure the impact and engagement on their Facebook page.
In her article How do women entrepreneurs use the virtual network Facebook? Christina Constantinidis of Liège University in Belgium, states that most of the Facebook activity by women-owned businesses are happening in commerce/retail, B2B and B2C services (table 2)
LinkedIn is mostly used by professional services companies. Companies build LinkedIn profile to inform customers and prospects about the business and its products and services. Many businesses also leverage it to find new business leads on LinkedIn. For women entrepreneurs, LinkedIn offers networking opportunities via the LinkedIn groups where group members can share professional advice and insights.
Twitter is more used to follow other companies and fans. It also serves to gain competitive and industry intelligence. For example, by monitoring Tweets with key words, business owners can keep track of emerging trends that can have any kind of impact on their business or customers. As Twitter is a “conversational tool”, many female entrepreneurs turn to Twitter to build their personal brand and build a powerful network. Publications such as Forbes and Fast Company have published articles with lists of top women entrepreneurs to follow.
Female entrepreneurs have adopted social media rapidly and emerged as clever social media marketers that use social media with a business purpose. Why? Perhaps for two reasons.
Culturally, in many countries around the world, women are more prone to consider relationships as a factor for business and personal decisions. Social media emphasize the relationship building, which can be used for brand building and reputation management.
In some parts of the world, it is also still more difficult for women to obtain financing to start a new business. Bootstrapping to start and grow a business is often a necessity. Taking the time needed out of the equation, social networks offer at low cost marketing alternative to reach a wide audiences, compared to other marketing alternatives.
And let’s not forget, women are among the highest early adopter for certain social media platforms, with Pinterest being a recent example.
Social media have become a women entrepreneurs’ best friend to meet their business goals ¾ sparkly online presence included.