Home > PR, Social Media, Social Networking > Social Media and the Small Business

Social Media and the Small Business

by Todd Hamann

I searched online this week for a few articles that spoke to the small business that doesn’t yet use social media.  The two that I decided to highlight are from www.forbes.com and www.mashable.com.  I chose them for their focus.  The forbes.com story “10 Social Media Mistakes Small Businesses Can Avoid” by Pamela Springer is a bit of a warning, but with projects I’m working on right now I want to avoid mistakes if I can.  The second article “Social Media for Small Businesses: 6 Effective Strategies” is more of a cup-half-full approach and I chose it to balance out the first.

Have a Plan

In the twenty or so articles I read this week, I found a common theme that Pamela Springer identifies as mistake number one.    Small businesses that just throw out a bunch of disorganized noise as social media without an organized plan. In effect, they are shotgunning social media and hoping that something works out as a result.  They do their best but I would imagine they don’t have the time or resources to invest in a proper social media campaign.    Creating a social media plan may be a time commitment up front, but for an organized social media campaign it is time well spent.  An organized social media campaign can streamline your image and do wonders for your bottom line.

Manage, Not Control

Social media is a matter of management, not control.  Let me repeat that for emphasis…social media is a matter of management, not control.  Once a small business tosses its hat into the social media ring, the organic nature of social media will take over.  After that, it is management.  Small businesses have control over what part of the ring to toss their hat, then the company’s online reputation will take on a life (or death) of its own.

Springer’s second avoidable mistake is to take on too much social media at once.  ” This can be a huge mistake because it’s easy to get overwhelmed very quickly,” she writes.  Know your resources and time constraints.  Social media will work if managed properly, no matter how large your business is.  I am starting to run as a way to get myself back in shape.  There is no chance I would sign up for a marathon right now because I’m still working on handling a 5k.  Similarly businesses need to pace themselves.  If you are a one man operation and don’t have time to put into it, then don’t explode onto the scene with a push on all social media fronts.  You may have a good run now, but you’ll pay for it later.  Let it come organically.  As business increases and your online presence expands then open up new avenues.

Social Media is Measurable

The third common problem small businesses jump into is not measuring their ROI of social media.  ROI in businesses (especially in small businesses) is a religion.  You don’t have the time or resources to sit on a campaign that doesn’t produce dividends.  On the flip side, you wouldn’t want your business to grow stagnate only to find out that you’ve been sitting on the golden egg an not realizing it.  Each social media outlet has it’s own reporting structure.  Make sure you can measure progress.

Get your logos and slogans out there!

Mistake #4.  Underutilizing branding opportunities.  Springer makes a great point here.  Put your logo and slogan everywhere.  She says that there are so many spaces on profiles that are not filled in that become wasted opportunities to share your message.  Mistakes #5 and #6 are similar in nature.  Make sure that you are listening and not just promoting, and make sure that you respond to negative feedback.  The medium of social media craves two way communication.  We all know those companies with the worst customer service, the worst websites, the worst payment options.  They are too big or bullheaded to care  what we as the customers think.  These are companies we avoid when we can.  Don’t be that company.  As a small business you can’t afford to. Negative feedback is worth it’s weight in gold.  It’s market research you don’t have to pay for.

Mistake #7 Not using what’s already there.  Do you know Google Places?  Do you know Yelp?  I surely didn’t before this week’s research.  There is a chance your business is listed and reviewed and you don’t even know it.  Google search yourself.  Your company may have an online presence that you don’t even know about yet.  If people are talking, you need to be listening.  These profiles can be gold if you start managing them.

Mistake #8 and #9, not putting in the time or having the passion for social media, are cousins to each other.  Social media is probably not going to be a get-rich-quick story for your business…that’s the reality of it.  It is however a fantastic avenue to interact with your customers and build your business over time.  If done right, it will work as it’s own search engine for new customers.  You must have the time and commitment to follow your plan.

Lastly, Springer notes that not all social media outlets work for all businesses.  Learn what to focus on.  Learn what not to focus on.

In a nutshell, these are Pamela Springer’s warnings to the small businesses:

  1. Have a Plan
  2. Don’t Take on Too Much Too Soon
  3. Make Success Measurable
  4. Use Social Media for Branding
  5. Listen to Customers While Promoting
  6. Address Negative Feedback
  7. Claim and Manage Existing Profiles
  8. Put in the Time
  9. Develop the Passion
  10. Know What Platform to Focus On.
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  1. Danica Moran
    September 29, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I like the fact that you pointed out that social media can and will effect the bottom line of business, it is not just a fun bandwagon, but it can and will increase sales.

  2. Peggy
    September 28, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    I liked this article because at my workplace this exact topic is on the table right now. Our business owner is grappling with how to break into social media as a way of capitalizing on the tsunami of information that greets John Q Public every second around the clock. To do so just might enable him to ride it neatly into the lap of success. Not to do so could be suicide. I see it as a bit tricky to get the balance you talk about in the article. For me and other folks like myself, stepping into this realm feels much the same as feeding an infant with a fire hose. It is a big big place. How to do it gracefully is key. I will surely share some of the points of your article with my boss who undoubtedly will find it very beneficial. I like the way you write. Thankyou for sharing this information. Really good job Todd!

  3. September 19, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Very well done Todd.

  4. September 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I think the advice the first article gives about not having to use all socail media outlets is really valuable. It seems that companies think they have to use every social media outlet available to them, when in fact that may be the cause of their downfall. #socmeddiscuss

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