Inspire SME. It is no gainsaying that the internet is one of the best things to ever happen to the world. In terms of information sourcing, promotion of business, advertising, communication, enhanced media presentation, and information transfer speed to mention a few, the development of the internet over the years cannot be over-emphasized.
In recent years, the trend towards increased awareness and use of the internet has been amazing. According to Internet Stats (An online statistics company) the total number of Internet users in the world was 3,366,261,156 with Africa having 330,965,359 which is about 9.8% of the total world internet users. It will also be note worthy to note that in 1995, less than 1% of the world’s population had access to the internet. This has grown sporadically from 1995 to 2016. The first billion Internet users threshold was reached in 2005, 2010 had internet users hit the 2 billion threshold and the third billion was in 2014.
Nigeria is not left out in the use of the internet as there is a huge frenzy and buzz on internet usage in the country. According to the Nigerian Communications Commission in November 2014, Internet users have hit 97.37 million. In effect, more than half of the Country population is currently internet savvy.
There are therefore no second thoughts with respect to the impact of internet on daily activities. The internet have impacted other sectors and connected them to the world. In education, entertainment, politics, business (to mention but a few), the use of internet has become so important that it is now a part of our daily lives.
The role of internet in business cannot be over emphasized, news papers are increasingly moving from the conventional large chunks of papers to online, companies are now beginning to design websites that communicate with customers; online publishing (blogging) has become a mainframe of communication and news breaking. Banks have even joined the train as internet banking has significantly eased the burden of customers by increasing the turnaround time for transactions. Airlines have also resorted to online ticketing for easy access to seamless ticket booking. One key ingredient in sustaining an ever increasing trend in the Internet has been the use of the social media.
The social media is a tool that allows people to create, share, and exchange information virtually. It depends on web based technologies to create platforms through which the users continually share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content. The Social media is therefore referred to as ‘the many relatively inexpensive and widely accessible electronic tools that enable anyone to publish and access information, collaborate on a common effort, or build relationships’. According to the Nielsen Company, there is a sporadic increasing trend to the usage of social media by the internet users than any other type of site, and this will continue to increase at an exponential rate.
In Nigeria, the use of the social media has been increasing annually, and while it was a trend among the young generation, older population have started catching up with the use and the increasing influence social media have on the populace.. It is noteworthy that popular applications like the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, have been used to pass ideas, generate leads, and share information.
For businesses in Nigeria, multinationals have seen the impact and importance of the use of social media as means to re-inforce and re-establish their brands in the market, they noticed the depth and exposure their products possess based on the continual marketing on social media. This has also been made possible by the ever increasing customers becoming internet conscious and savvy which culminated into the preferred use of the internet and social media for online transactions.
While it is noticeable that social media has now become a tool in online advertising, it has been observed that small and medium scale enterprises tend to shy away from social media, not taking advantage of the internet in establishing their forte in business. Although a lot of SMEs are aware that there is social media, most do not understand the business importance and strategy attached to using the social media to propel business since physical presence on the social media is not just sufficient to drive business advantage. With statistics revealing the number people around the world using Twitter (271 million), LinkedIn (300 million) Google+ (359 million) and
Asides the fact that the social media creates an avenue for communication and relations, it also provides an avenue for social marketing, publicity, market research and customer relations. It is notable that the multinationals have taken a huge advantage of this and leveraged on the social media to pass information and relate with customers.
The ever increasing importance of social media to SMEs cannot be overemphasized and SMEs can acquire, nurture and increase leads generated from the social media. On the issues of engaging with the customer base, SMEs stand a better chance of engagement because it is closer to the customers than the multinationals that prefers market dominance and hence would be looking at that bigger picture of marketing than the SMEs.
One very important advantage of the social media to SMEs is the ability to generate feedback and inculcate that into adding values to products. As an SME, customers are king, and whatever is mentioned on the social media goes a long way in determining the going concern of that business. Social Media avails an SME the opportunity for business improvement.
Social media also aids SMEs in acquiring new leads and winning new business opportunities. The sole purpose of running a business is to generate profit, and a major trigger of profit generation is winning new customers. Social media provides that platform to increases brand awareness and expose the SME business to new customers.
Finally, the use of the social media favorably could be through the use of the popular apps like Facebook, Twitter, PinInterest, Instagram. SMEs can even go a step further to procure the services of a digital market consultant, social media publicist or even advertise on a blog with the intention of improving the SME business.
SMEs can enjoy immediate expansion in customer base through effective use of the social media, however, care should be taken in making projections on the immediate returns on investment as the impact of the social media on business may take them.
There has to be diligence and hardwork in content creation in order to maintain customer base and win prospects.