Small Business Social Media: Bridging The Gap 2011

July 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Looking over a new infographic courtesy of the great minds over at Edison Research and Constant Contact, it strikes me once again that the specter of social media continues to spook small businesses. One wonders if small business owners believe that it’s too expensive to run a local social media campaign, or perhaps that it doesn’t really work, or there’s just not enough time.
Bridge The Gap 2011

The first hypothetical is false. Many of the tools needed to run a successful social media campaign locally for small businesses are free. These can be anything from a WordPress blog, to a Twitter feed or Facebook Biz Page, a Flickr account for photos, a list of current customers to reach through your email service, and a well thought-out Google Businesses Entry (which will link directly from Google Maps). There are many more tools out there, but fortunately, the ones that are most effective with the highest traffic are free.

The second hypothetical is debatable because it has the most variables. Successfully beginning a small business social media campaign really depends on what you want to get out of it. If you merely want to keep your regular (and potential) customers aware of new items and/or services, maintaining a blog that’s paired with a Flickr or Photobucket account is easy. These often benefit small businesses like vintage clothing shops, bakeries, used car dealerships, and even professional photographers.In this way, you can post things that people are allowed to comment on, allowing you to begin a conversation with your (hopefully expanding) customer base.

Stepping up to social media tools that require getting people to follow your daily activity, such as Twitter and Facebook, is slightly more labor intensive and tricky. You can get people to “like” or “follow” your small business, but can you get them to interact? These services also become more effective when you understand specific features like targeting, hashtagging, photo tagging and more. These services are usually less about conversations than they are about cross-promotion, and making it easy for your friends or followers to forward updates to others. A well-managed Twitter campaign can do wonders for building a broader customer base when combined with Living Social or Groupon services. Just make sure you do the math before you get behind.

The third hypothetical can be true for small businesses who are new to social media and networking. There are many tools you can use for social media, and many have their own specific ways of synchronizing with other tools. How do people new to SocMedia know which URL shortener has better stat tracking, or what photo service has the best way of ranking by keyword on search engine results? Is Tweetdeck better for Google or Bing results? Does Flickr make it harder to link photos to your Facebook page than Photobucket? Finding out these kinds of things for sure can take weeks or even months. And even still, you may need help deciphering the data once it comes to you.

So perhaps the best way for small business to begin using social media is to get busy in small ways. It could be anything from a blog on a network that’s easy to find that can be updated once a day or week. It can be a Twitter feed that demands you spend a few minutes a day adding friends – after a few weeks of this, things can really begin expanding. Working for a professional marketing firm, my company shot-callers understand how easy it is to get underwater with social media tools. Once you begin using these tools, if you notice that your initial expectations are met, add another stage or another email campaign; anything that operates on a new network stream that has different eyes on it. If your expectations aren’t being met but still wish to find and engage new customers, consider hiring a professional firm for social media campaigns.

And last, but most importantly – you may decide to use social media, but understand it’s not about you; it’s about listening to your customer’s needs and having a public conversation about it. So, in social media, just like in your store or on your web site – make sure the time your customers spend on your social media channels is worth it. Make them special offers, treat them well for referring new customers, anything else you can think of to get the conversation moving.

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