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Service design and delivery

SMEs: Time for a social media check up?

Businesses benefit from the help of independent experts who make sure companies make the most of their social media presence. You can read books and watch self-help videos, but wouldn’t you prefer the advice of an expert on exactly how social media fits within your business?


For many – perhaps most – businesses, social media means cheap marketing and self-promotion. Facebook and Twitter lets you extend your reach in exchange for the little time it takes to post a picture, share a link or offer a discount code. There’s a chance you could even go global!

Finding the knack to cut through all the social media noise and speak loudly and clearly to your target audience, however, takes skill and strategy. Anyone can do it, but you may have to read hundreds of books and watch thousands of YouTube videos to work out how. In fact, it sometimes feels like the main use of social media is to offer content about how to use social media more effectively!

But do small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the North Sea Region really use social media to their advantage? Is their social media presence effectively supporting their business strategy and enhancing their competitive advantage?

As part of Opening Up we surveyed a sample of companies in Groningen on their use of social media. We also used the Social Media Maturity Tool to find out the strategic importance of social media within organisations.

Our analysis suggests that despite the plentiful supply of ‘self-help’ resources, SMEs would still benefit from expert support to help them be more strategic and to see that their social media presence delivers a return on investment. Advice, consultancy and training from external experts helps businesses to become social media savvy.

Based on our feasibility studies, Hanze University of Applied Sciences has established the Social Media lab to provide students and staff with the facilities to advise local businesses on the application of social media technologies.

Students using the SML facilities are able to monitor what your customers are doing and saying on social media – what is the “buzz” about your company, products and brands? We use this analysis to recommend the next steps in your social media strategy.

Not just communication

Let’s not underestimate the impact that a social media strategy can have for a company. We are not just talking about extending your sales and marketing reach; be prepared for social media to transform your business from the outside in because there is a whole new meaning to engagement.

Social media opens you up and brings you closer to your customers. Forget about ‘them’ and ‘us’; your customers can become your finest designers and your pushiest sales reps. Social media connects you together as collaborators – it is no longer a one-way street.

Are you ready for crowdsourcing and user-led innovation?

“Customers become your finest designers and your pushiest sales reps”

Next steps


Corné Kox, Marketing Consultant, Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, Netherlands. Email:

Erwin de Beer is an expert on social networks.

Erwin de Beer, Hanze 2.0 project. Email:

Corné Kox is an expert on social media.