How Irish SMEs promote their business in 2016

how Irish SMEs promote their business today

As part of our Smarter Living for Business series, we're bringing businesses simple ideas to make their business better through insights and industry research from some of the country's most influential leaders and thinkers.

This week, we take a look at SME owners approach to promotion and their views on the business media.

We recently surveyed 132 SMEs across the country about their attitudes towards doing business in Ireland in 2016*. The results were a fascinating insight into the challenges and opportunities that small business owners encounter every day.

How Irish businesses use Social Media

What’s the best way of letting your customers know about your business? It’s a question many SME owners struggle with daily, especially with the vast array of promotional choices available in the modern media landscape. Social media as a promotion method has long been embraced by larger companies, but are small businesses in Ireland as keen?

Our survey found that business owners in Ireland are enthusiastic about social overall, with 66% of our respondents (significantly higher than the European average) saying they use some form of it to promote their business. Just over half of all respondents (53%) said they used Facebook to promote their business, while half again as many (23%) said they used Twitter. At the lower end of the scale, only 13% said they used LinkedIn, and none of the other social marketing sites climbed above 5%.

Interestingly, just over a third (34%) said that they used no social marketing at all, indicating there is still some resistance among business owners towards online promotion methods.

So why the reluctance? Well, small business owners can be wary of anything that feels like a waste of their time and resources. And for someone who already spends all day running their business, investing time and money into social media can be just another headache. But establishing a social media presence doesn’t need to cost the earth, and the positives generally outweigh the negatives.


Making online engagement work

For a business with a loyal customer base, social media can turn loyal customers into advocates. Most of us have taken a recommendation on a business or brand from a friend in the past, but social media can open up this enthusiasm to a much wider audience. Research has shown that people trust other people’s recommendations more than direct marketing, so a business with an active and satisfied customer base will always be more attractive than one without. And it’s these recommendations which can turn a curious viewer into a new customer.

So, social media is definitely great for telling your customers about you, but it’s also useful for your customers telling you about themselves. There’s no better guide to what you’ve been doing right or wrong than customer reviews. A company that engages with its audience can quickly find out what its customers like and don’t like, and tailor their future business decisions based on this information. The advances in Facebook’s native advertising tools have also allowed businesses to be much more focused in their marketing efforts. With the ability to geo-target to their specific locality, these platforms also open up SMEs to a wider national and international audience allowing for a better return on investment than traditional advertising methods like television and newspapers.

Keeping up with the industry

When it comes to industry news, trade association newsletters are still king, with 43% of respondents saying that they consult them regularly. Subscription newsletters are next, with 39% saying they read them for the latest on their industry. But while it’s clear that small business owners in Ireland still maintain a preference for traditional media, they’re not shy of online either.

29% of owners stated that they got their news from Facebook and 17% from Twitter. Just under half of respondents stated that word of mouth was one of their primary sources for business updates, which demonstrates the importance of the still relatively close-knit business community in Ireland.

Most of those surveyed were satisfied with the sources of business news in Ireland. For those who were not, there were two major complaints. Many of those surveyed felt there was too much of an emphasis on multinationals and large companies in the business media and unsurprisingly wanted a greater focus on positive news stories featuring SMEs. And a number of respondents also felt there was a bias in the media towards the larger urban areas, particularly Dublin, and wanted greater coverage of SMEs in the smaller towns and rural areas.

Looking to the future

Our survey results demonstrate that Irish companies are among the most progressive in the world when it comes to social media use. As the economy recovers, it’s vital that we harness this positive outlook in order to maximise our SMEs opportunities on a national and international level. There’s no reason why Irish business can’t continue to make an impact on the world stage, and a business community that’s active in the online space is a major step towards that. That’s just good business. For all of us.

*This survey was conducted through phone by on behalf of Electric Ireland.

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