What the changing media landscape means for SMEs

The media landscape has undergone enormous and complex change over the last thirty years, with social media platforms rising in prominence often at the expense of more traditional media outlets.

As the platforms we use to communicate change, so should marketing activities and business priorities. There has been a shift away from traditional media with the circulation of paid for news in the UK dropping below 3 million for the first time, while UK consumer magazines also saw an 11% decline according to the latest ABC data.

Figures from Ofcom also show the growth of digital news consumption, with more than two thirds (68%) of UK adults consuming news via online sources. Social media is an important driver for this, with just under half (47%) of UK adults using these sources for news and opinion.

As audiences increasingly engage online, effective brand building exercises can be more complex as businesses need to plan campaigns across more channels and platforms than ever before.

Managing a multimedia presence

Between the emergence of LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, X and TikTok, social media has grown exponentially over the last two decades, making it challenging for SMEs to invest the right levels of time or resource into keeping current.

Research from SocialSprout suggests that social media is now the number one channel for businesses to connect and communicate with consumers. The medium provides the perfect opportunity to allow brands to invest in relationships with consumers and build customer loyalty. When customers feel connected to brands, more than half (57%) will increase their spending with that brand and 76% will buy from them over a competitor.

However, getting your content and messaging right is all important. Consumers want to learn more about the people behind their favourite brands and businesses. Seventy percent of consumers, for example, report feeling more connected when a brand’s CEO is active on social. Additionally, 72% of consumers report feeling similarly when employees share information about a brand online.

Don’t be too salesy

Social media is about relating to, and having relationships with customers regardless of whether your business is selling to a consumer or another business.  Messaging needs to be subtle, engaging and relevant to audiences when boosting brand visibility.

Social media users respond best to a balance of promotional and non-promotional content, the balance being 20% promotional and 80% non-promotional. Sharing articles that provide insight into your brand’s industry, leveraging relevant cultural moments and sharing experiences are all ways in which you can add value whilst avoiding being too product pushy.

Unlike conventional advertising, social media communication is a two-way street; consumers want to see brands that they can really engage with. Whether liking comments, responding to private messages, or starting polls will help customers feel seen and heard, enabling them to connect with your SME’s brand.

However, it is also essential to understand the role each platform plays in order to put your SME in front of the correct potential customer. Whilst it may be fun and fresh to maintain a presence on TikTok, consider who you are targeting and looking to engage with.

Influencers & third-party endorsements

Look to utilise your network, whether media, social or influencers (people who your customers relate to and who they would turn to for advice or suggestions). When a product or service is promoted by somebody else, the promotion no longer becomes a sales pitch but rather a credible recommendation that consumers find trustworthy.

Utilising influencers, customers, partners, and suppliers to promote your business will help customers justify the purchase whether in the form of case studies, reviews, endorsements, or social posts.

Declining attention spans

Attention spans have also scarily decreased. According to a study conducted by Microsoft, the average attention span of Gen Z individuals was only about eight seconds, four seconds less than that of millennials. With attention spans diminishing, information must be kept at the forefront of any article, post or video.

Similarly, TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts, have boosted the rise of bite-sized video content as an essential tool in disseminating information. In today’s advancing time equals money economy, it’s no surprise that video tutorials are trumping lengthy manuals.

Videos, as well as being a great source of entertainment are incredibly useful for spreading brand awareness and providing in-depth information. They provide an excellent opportunity to engage directly with customers, show your authority and share advice.  Consider a YouTube channel when promoting a good or service as ‘How to” ranks as the most common search term on YouTube.

Websites and winning the SEO algorithm

Websites remain an ideal opportunity to showcase a comprehensive view of your SME’s products or services. However, information such as when your SME was established or how many people work for you may not be what customers are searching for? Put key information up front, answer customers questions and solve their problems by showing authority and expertise in an area through quality, considered content.

Whilst the media can open the door to millions of potential customers and third-party endorsements, adding social media management to an already busy SME schedule can be daunting. Managing the media only works when done consistently and done well, so knowing when to outsource your marketing and communications to experts is essential for both optimising your time and making the most of your efforts.

Louis Hill

Louis began work as a PR intern nearly 30 years ago, initially working within the WPP agency network. He quickly progressed to work at Cohn & Wolfe, where he gained experience with clients including Visa International, Barclays Bank, Pedigree Petfoods and Reebok. While at Cohn & Wolfe, the agency was named ‘Agency of the Year’ for three consecutive years by the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA).

On leaving Cohn & Wolfe, Louis was the first external PR specialist appointed by Marks & Spencer to help manage the media during a turbulent time of change for the business. At M&S the corporate affairs team was also named ‘In-house team of the Year’ for the work undertaken in supporting the business as it sought to manage the changes to its international store portfolio, UK sourcing as well as the launch of its credit card to more than six million customers.

Louis was appointed head of UK communications at Kellogg’s as the company sought to manage negative media commentary regarding the levels of salt, fat and sugar in their products. The company also faced challenges from the Food Standards Agency that proposed to limit product advertising to children and put on pack ‘traffic lights’ to share nutritional information with customers that could potentially damage the company’s position in the UK marketplace.

In 2007, Louis decided to step away from the corporate world and set up Source PR to deliver PR and communication support to SMEs across the North West. The business has won numerous awards for its communication campaigns and has now grown its offer to provide clients with a broader range of services including social media management other digital marketing services.

Source PR is now one of the region’s leading PR & digital agencies supporting a range of organisations across the UK with their PR, social media management and digital communications.

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