Work online? BT has some new solutions

It’s been estimated that up to 99% of consumers, at least once in a year, will now find a local business they need using the internet.Around 80% go online more than once a week to try and find a local business.Customers looking for things like a local hairdresser, florist, restaurant or garage will now increasingly find those businesses online, while using their smartphones or other online devices.

More than half of small businesses have added new social media channels over the last two years.
More than half of small businesses have added new social media channels over the last two years.

For companies therefore – particularly small, local businesses – it’s now essential to have some kind of online presence. The days of companies relying on just a small newspaper advert and local word-of-mouth have passed.

While traditional advertising and recommendations from friends and family still count for businesses, the huge growth in smartphone ownership in recent years, alongside the popularity of companies like Google, Facebook and Apple, has transformed the way small companies do business.

Chris Sims, MD for BT’s SoHo (Single/Small Office, Home Office) unit, said: “The growth in smartphone use and the way we access the web and social media to find information has changed the game for small businesses.

BT's Chris Sims emphasises how social media is important to growing a business

“The pandemic sped up that shift to online, with many businesses having to change the way they operate, almost overnight.

“While the idea of ‘being online’ for many businesses in recent years meant simply having a website, that has changed quickly, with companies now having to think about how people find them on search engines like Google and also how they can promote themselves locally via social media.”

With many businesses moving online during the pandemic, a survey last year by Small Business Britain, in partnership with BT, found that 74 per cent of small firms have increased their use of social media to promote their business online. 43 per cent of those polled said they were using e-commerce more, while 30 per cent had increased their use of paid social media advertising.

A more recent survey revealed that more than half (55%) of small businesses have added new social media channels like Instagram and TikTok, with 42% building a new website over the last two years.

Grace Osborne, Founder of Natural Grace London, believes BT has helped her business

Chris Sims added: “With people of all ages now spending more time than ever on social media, it offers another great platform for small businesses to use the power of the internet to promote their business locally.

“It doesn’t matter what type of business you have, if you don’t have a solid online presence, you’re potentially missing out on thousands of customers who don’t know you exist. It’s also a big leveller. It allows a small local business to appear online, alongside big, well-known brands, allowing customers to make a choice.

“Although many small businesses have already expanded their online presence, we know that, for many of them, they lack the time, money, and confidence to do this effectively.”

To help make it easier for small businesses to promote their goods and services online, BT recently launched a new digital advertising platform.

BT’s Digital Marketing Hub gives businesses the tools and support to create, publish and measure their digital advertising across Google, Facebook, and Instagram, all from one place.

Grace Osborne, Founder of Natural Grace London said BT had helped her business: “As a track athlete with a passion for sustainability, founding Natural Grace enabled me to create high performance sportswear whilst tackling the pressing issue of ocean plastic.

“The BT Digital Marketing Hub really helps to streamline an essential part of the business. I can monitor and make changes to my online ads without having to move from one platform to another. It’s really simple to use and has given us invaluable insights."

Dr. Ava Eagle, CEO and Founder of The Mango Girl, added: “I’ve always had a passion for creating things. It’s why I started handmaking skin care products and why I set up The Mango Girl business in 2019.

“The support from the BT Digital Marketing Hub has been great. The team helped me to create a series of display ads and Facebook ads, which has helped me identify the right audiences and optimise activity to ensure I’m getting the best return from my budget.”

To find out more about BT’s Digital Marketing Hub, visit https://business.bt.com/digital-marketing-hub.