Social media is proving a communication boon for small businesses. Photo: Reuters
Small businesses are increasingly using social media to interact and create a rapport with their customers, according to a new survey.
The Sensis e-Business report showed that 27 per cent of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that used the internet also used social media, an increase of 17 per cent since 2010.
Of the 1808 businesses surveyed, 92 per cent of SMEs were connected to the internet.
''We've been seeing consistent growth in the use of social media used in business,'' said report author Christena Singh.
The predominant form of social media used by SMEs was Facebook.
Businesses using Facebook reported more interaction with customers, good customer feedback, increased networking opportunities and increased sales.
''Any business where they are trying to build a strong customer rapport, create brand loyalty and customer dialogue, tend to be the businesses that find social media particular useful,'' said Ms Singh.
Sam Korotkov, event director at The Wall, a weekly event at The World Bar in Sydney's Kings Cross, said Facebook was a vital part of their marketing strategy.
''With Facebook is there a way to involve people without spamming them?'' he asked.
''The content that we provide is all about keeping them interested. We talk about current affairs, we use new music, we keep them involved and turn our page into a small service, almost like a source of news and entertainment, rather than blatantly pushing products.''
Mr Korotkov said using social media required minimal effort, with the rewards far outweighing the small amount of time taken to use it.
''Facebook is like an espresso shot of marketing. It's the information there as you want it, it's obviously not in depth but you're able to draw out a lot of things. There isn't a lot of preparation involved, preparing posts and sourcing content; once you have it, you can link it.''
For Sam Gabrielian, owner of Dose Espresso, social media were not part of his strategy when he opened his cafe in November last year. ''We decided to start a Facebook page because our customers requested a page with some photos and some of our products,'' he said.
Taking things a step further, Gabrielian decided to offer customers a 10 per cent discount if they liked Dose's Facebook page.
''We did that for two weeks. We found the likes built up very quickly; it was a kind gesture to the customers,'' he said.
Facebook has become a key component for letting customers know what's happening at the cafe, which constantly changes its menu.
''Our customers actually wanted to be notified when we had certain coffees,'' said Gabrielian.
''For instance, we were running a kopi luwak for a short time, and people would come in and ask for it and they would just miss out.''
Ms Singh said she expected to see continued growth in the use of social media by small businesses.
''We're seeing 62 per cent of the Australia population [on Facebook], so there certainly is an opportunity,'' she said.
''Social media peak at the 18-19 age bracket, 95 per cent; as that population becomes older we will see it become a much more important part of the marketplace.''