Although a new survey shows close to half of small business owners use Facebook for their business, a Facebook page is not always the best option for an SMB trying to reach customers online. MSPs may be able to provide SMB clients with e-commerce services that are safer and more effective than doing business via the world’s largest social networking site.
An August 2012 survey from Newtek Business Services indicates 47% of small business owners use Facebook for business purposes. And 64% do not see a concern with sharing information. Newtek, a provider of SMB services itself, offers a number of arguments why this is not necessarily a good idea.
To briefly summarize them, one of the chief drawbacks of an SMB Facebook page is that Facebook retains control of the page and the data on it. That means even though Facebook offers SMBs a free web portal for customers and suppliers, small business owners have to give away their customer information including preferences, spending patterns and contact information. They have no control over how Facebook uses that information and do not necessarily have access to it themselves to aid functions such as marketing, product assortment, R&D, etc.
Managed Web Services Give SMBs Control, AccessIn contrast to a free Facebook page where Facebook calls all the shots and collects all the information for itself, an MSP can offer SMBs hosted e-commerce services that include data backup and storage, finance and accounting, HR, business analysis, and internal communications in addition to traditional transactional services.
MSPs can also creatively apply technology to further increase the value of these services to SMBs. For example, by hosting e-commerce services on a cloud platform, MSPs can offer flexible pricing and storage options as well as lower overhead. And by using multi-tenancy, MSPs can collect and aggregate data from multiple SMBs into a single database schema.
This allows them to more easily perform data mining and run queries across the data of all users, enabling MSPs to more quickly detect large-scale consumer trends and/or security problems (such as a malware attack or organized hacking effort) than they would be able by analyzing the data from each individual customer and then combining the results for further meta-analysis.
And that analysis is done for the benefit of the SMB client rather than for a social network looking to further extend its dominance of the social media space. While managed e-commerce services cost a lot more than a free Facebook account, MSPs should remind SMB customers that “free” usually comes with a catch.