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68. Social Media for Small Business and PEST analysis

I attended some time ago an advanced social media workshop which is run for the St Albans Enterprise Agency by two of its licensees: FL1 Solutions and Cerco Communications. The social media offer a wealth of opportunities for small businesses and it is such a fast-moving and dynamic area that any business these days has to have an awareness of what is happening or risk being left behind. One comment during the session, however, especially caught my attention: generation X and especially generation Y do not use written media such as newspapers and magazines or even the TV media in the same way as their parents as a prime source – they are much more likely to use the social media and the internet.

As someone who advises start-up and small businesses, it is sometimes very difficult to get across the importance of being able to place your business in the context of the broad environment in which it exists. But this was a perfect example of why it is essential. Every business will be relying on generation X and Y users, and their heirs for their business at some time. So we DO need to take into account the macro trends in our markets as well as the immediate and obvious.

The strategic approach to this is through a PEST analysis (featured in Philip Kotler’s work) – standing for:

P – political and regulatory issues

E – economic issues

S – social and environmental issues

T – technological issues and developments

Well the emerging technologies of the internet and the social media systems it hosts are clear examples  of how technology has changed and is changing our world and our businesses – if you are a conventional media business you will certainly be very aware of this. But the example of generation X and Y also indicates the way social changes are impacting: the technology is the enabler for what is a social change – a different way of using time, of communicating, of researching and gathering information, of having relationships with others.

Some businesses are switched on to every aspect of their broad environment, but for most the pressures of day-to-day mean that it is easy to overlook what is happening on the macro level. This is especially true for a small business where there may not appear to be “time to stop and stare”.

Part of the value of a formal planning process is that it directs your focus onto areas that can get overlooked – and despite the huge surge in the use of the social media by business,  there are still a massive number who are not even reasonably aware of how the shape and process of business is changing as a result of the technological and social changes that are taking place. Make sure you are not one of these.