This article has been translated with Deepl.
NEW RESEARCH | How small business owners can benefit from social media
Many small businesses use Facebook and Instagram as marketing channels. But social media can have a much deeper impact on a company than that.
– A woman with a new shop in Västmanland was tipped off in the Facebook group that someone was donating used refrigerators further north. The tipster, who was completely unknown to her, had an acquaintance who drove and picked them up for her,” says Josefina Jonsson, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
This is an example of how social media groups can work in the everyday life of a small business. In her doctoral thesis, Josefina Jonsson has studied the role that online communities play in entrepreneurship and the way in which the involvement there affects the actions of small businesses in practice.
Increased access to resources
Through the engagement of social media followers, the availability of resources can increase dramatically, as the story of the refrigerator illustrates.
– Small business owners are not limited to what is available in the immediate vicinity. Social media groups are a parallel world to what happens ‘in real life’ in the company. Life online and what happens in practice in a physical location are highly intertwined and affect the entrepreneur’s worldview.
Tools for organizing
Today, many small business owners use Facebook groups almost like an intranet, and this is where the business largely takes shape.
– The groups staff their activities and work on other organizational processes, such as who does what, when and how? Many small business owners make schedules and plan meetings through the groups. They have largely redefined what, for example, Facebook is and can be for them.
Threats and hatred can become commonplace
With the openness of the web, it can be difficult for small business owners to check which individuals are part of the group, and what their intentions are for engagement. One of the small business owners in Josefina Jonsson’s study was a rabbit farmer, and was targeted by animal activists via the Facebook group.
– The harassment led to serious consequences for her mental health, and she decided to change the direction of the company. Among other things, she closed down the farm shop and stopped selling directly to consumers. So while online communities are predominantly positive, engagement can sometimes take the form of hate and threats.
Social media has long been an integral part of entrepreneurs’ daily lives. So what in your research surprised you?
– That what happens online has such a huge impact on entrepreneurship in practice. This is something small businesses should consider before deciding to engage in social media,” says Josefina Jonsson.
Five things to consider when taking your business to social media:
- Take the opportunity to broaden your network through social media, and be open to the resources available through Facebook groups, for example.
- Reflect on the input you receive online. Many inputs from engaged team members can contribute to innovation and development, but not everyone knows what works in your company or the context in which you operate.
- Be mentally prepared for possible negative events. For example, consider the risks associated with your company’s presence on social media.
- Have a plan on how to avoid a negative backlash. This can include having clear guidelines on the tone of a page and careful moderation of comments.
- Have a crisis plan for how to respond to threats and hatred on social media.
More about the thesis
Josefina Jonsson recently defended her dissertation at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences with the thesis The Force of Social Media: Rethinking the social and spatial contexts in entrepreneurship. .
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