Three reasons marketing favors social media and small businesses

social media and small businesses

I’ve spent some time this week attending a few online webinars and catching up on my blog reader and I noticed an interesting trend. The conversations, research, presentations, and case studies focused entirely on large corporations.

For example, I sat through a Forrester presentation on new social web marketing analytics and their ideas on measurement took resources that were way out of reach of the small business owner, meaning … most of us.

Look through the success stories in your blog reader. Nike. Ford. Coca-Cola. And of course the ever-present Zappos. Is anybody paying attention to the little guys?

We keep hearing about the great opportunity for small businesses to “take part in the conversation” but is that really true?  In the daily dogfight for consumer attention, are they being overwhelmed by the big brand mega-productions, online promotions and games?  Are small businesses going to be crowded out by the big chains and big marketing budgets?

No!  It’s time for the small business owner to rise up and embrace the social web!  Local businesses CAN have an advantage through social media for these three reasons:

Local angle — Social media’s greatest power is when it is used in a way that is targeted and local.  I could care less about a tweet from a mega-brand, but I would certainly be interested to get to know a local shop owner in a personal way.

Here’s an example.  I don’t follow Starbucks on Twitter and probably never will. However, I do follow Brian Myers, the owner of JaVerde Coffee here in Knoxville. We became friends over Twitter.  Although his shop is 15 miles from my home, I go out of my way to support his small business entirely because of our personal Twitter connection. That’s how business works!

Personal touch — One time Brian saw this tweet come through: “On my way to JaVerde Coffee but forgot my wallet!”  The shop owner replied, “Come on by, this one is on me.” He just won a customer for life.

Even though companies like McDonalds may fill a room with tweeters, I don’t think they  could ever match the connection and loyalty a local business owner can drive with its customers.  If Bank of America tweets every minute of the day for the rest of my life I am probably never going to connect with a real person.  And for a small business, that is everything.  It’s not just about coupons. It’s about caring.

The ROI advantage — Culturally, I think it is difficult for many large businesses to do anything more than check a box on social media because they expect all the results to be neatly assembled on an Excel spreadsheet or infographic. If you have a moment to spare, I encourage you to watch this three minute news story about a small bakery’s use of Facebook.  Here are some of the social media benefits described in the clip:

  • Higher customer loyalty/number of visits
  • Higher rate of spending
  • Frequent customer connection
  • A channel for customer service
  • Emotional connection to the brand
  • Source for new product ideas and customer polling

Now if a customer provides an idea for a great new pastry, how do you measure that?  I suppose you could create a pie chart.  Pie chart!  Get it?  Oh, never mind, social media and small businesses.

For a local business using an essentially free social media platform, this list of benefits is pretty impressive.  In fact, it’s revolutionary.

So while small businesses may not be getting the spotlight on the blogosphere, there is no question that, done right, there can be great opportunity in this critical segment of the economy.

What is your experience? Do you have any great case studies from your city you would like to share?

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  • If you use any business tool in a sensible (and relevant to your business) way – it will benefit the bottom line (short or long term).  Some big companies have cracked it and some small companies likewise.  The big ugly giants have the advantage of having more resource to pour into the practice, whilst the small ‘whipper-snappers’ have the advantage of immediacy and flexibility.

    I have not really noticed a trend in terms of big vs small – but it is sure a lot more rewarding/fun to see the little guys doing the right thing…..

  • I love this, mostly because it confirms what I’ve been writing about and telling clients for a long time.  the one thing that I would add, and it fits into points 2 and 3 a bit, is that in large companies you have the whole conversation about who owns social media: marketing, PR, sales, customer service, etc etc. In a small business, you ARE all of those departments. In a large business, if marketing takes the reigns, the social media presence will reflect that and have a decidedly marketing oriented slant. Same goes for any of the silos. But in a small business, because one or two people share all of those duties, the SM presence better mirrors the entire business model. Big business can really learn from this.

  • Mark sometimes you write an article that is so to-the-point, no fluff or “flirty” headline that explains things so well, I just want to get out of my chair and jump up and down! Not for MY sake, but for some of my clients. I think to myself, THIS is what I wanted to say to so and so!!! Thanks for this post and for the concrete examples in your own life. THAT’S what really gets the point across. Real life examples. IMAGINE!!!!!!

  • Mark sometimes you write an article that is so to-the-point, no fluff or “flirty” headline that explains things so well, I just want to get out of my chair and jump up and down! Not for MY sake, but for some of my clients. I think to myself, THIS is what I wanted to say to so and so!!! Thanks for this post and for the concrete examples in your own life. THAT’S what really gets the point across. Real life examples. IMAGINE!!!!!!

  • That coffee example is great, Mark. I’d drive there in a heartbeat.

    We’re still in “case study mode” here as we work with small businesses…and that’s actually very helpful, because the discussion can’t go down the road of “your conversion rate on your $2 million ad spend” and instead must go down the road of “what are the touch points at your store? Are you giving people an excuse to visit your Facebook fan page?” Etc. All the way up to “Do you have Objectives for your Marketing?”

  • Agree.  I’ve had an opportunity to get an inside glimpse of the sophisticated big-brand machines whirring in this space but I’m still cheering for the little guys!  Thanks, nic.

  • Oh that is such a great point.  Politics. Bureaucracy.  Kingdom-building.  Quite true and relevant. Thanks Ken!

  • Spread the word Annette and get these folks onboard! : )

  • You are hitting at the heart of a companion post I’m thinking about … why SMB’s DON’T have an advantage : )  And some of it is, they are too busy fighting fires with their limited resources to be strategic, as you say.  And believe me, I live that every day!  Superb comment. Thank you!

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  • Jemma

    Hi Mark,

    I am the brand new Social Media and PR Coordinator at George Thompson Diamond Co in Camarillo, CA. This company is new to social media and is slowly but surely gaining the momentum it needs to start utilizing these various platforms to actually bring customers in to the store. We ran our first ever sweepstakes from August 18 to September 5th and had some really great feedback. I am starting to notice the same few people commenting on our pages so I make sure to check their pages out. I see what they are doing then give them little “shout outs” on our page or information I think they might like. Social Media will never be effective overnight but I am excited to see that the ball is finally starting to roll! I really enjoyed your article, thank you. If you want to check us out ,
    http://www.facebook.com/GeorgeThompsonDiamondCompany

    Thanks for the insight,
    Jemma

  • The JaVerde Coffee example is a great one, especially when he says, “Come on by, this one is on me.” Now that is customer service! I’d certainly be loyal to that business.

    This is revolutionary, but the work is convincing small business owners how important social media could be to their bottom line, and customer loyalty. Quite a few of my customers are still stuck on print ads, so there is a lot of convincing to be done. This post helps … Another grow post bookmarked!

    You should cool it with the pie jokes though … J.K. 🙂

  • Oh, Mark! I can’t believe I’m going to be the curmudgeon here, but somebody’s got to. With the caveat that everything you said is absolutely right on, I gotta point out the downside of “doing it right” online and then getting it all wrong in the shop.

    There’s a local pastry and coffee shop in my town. It’s a slightly inconvenient location for me — past four major-brand coffee shops — but after “meeting” them on twitter and having some decent exchanges, I went by and tweeted that I was there. I was one of 2 people in the room. I look like my avatar. They were actively tweeting behind the counter and didn’t look up and say, “Hello.” I took my husband by for his birthday and tweeted about it — even posted pictures! — and they couldn’t be bothered to respond.  I went by another time and got brave enough to say, “Hey! I’m on twitter with you guys!” They just didn’t care. So, I stopped going and unfollowed them and stick my tongue out at their store when I drive by.

    They made me feel like a friend online, but didn’t have the social skills to follow it up in the store, or sustain the relationship after the sale. It was worse that being followed by a major brand that just wants you to RT their spam. It felt personal.

    So, if businesses are getting into this social media thing, they need to know what it is they are hoping to accomplish and keep paying attention to it. It can be unicorns and chocolate pie, but you gotta follow through.

  • Great post great topic. Funny and I know this will shock you Mark but I still have not seen any large corporation social media success that moves any needles for sales, customer service, loyalty etc. The only one that I know of is Ford’s fiesta movement. I estimate that campaign sold almost $400m in cars 30,000 fiestas at $14k each. Bu that was more blog driven. I see so little activity on every single Brand page even ones with millions of fans.

    I asked Chris Baccus if ATT would cry if facebook disappeared. He gave me a round about answer saying the way to find out is to turn the site off for a day. But when you spend hundreds of millions on TV and Billboards etc what can social add for you?

    Now a small fry with low resources and a great personality could seriously impact their business in all areas.

  • Glad you are experiencing some success. Congratulations!

  • I am always wary of this idea of “convincing” customers. That is usually a sure sign of problems. Social media represents a vast cultural change in many cases, not just finding somebody to tweet the latest press release. Cultural change takes time and it is very, very hard work. I’ve had customers who “get it” immediately and some I have been bringing along for three years. And I’m successful in both cases because I am helping them in the context of their capabilities and bringing them along at their own pace. Teaching … Not convincing. : )

  • You are far too nice to be a curmudgeon!

    This is a good example of a shop “doing” social instead of “being” social. They are checking a box. As you demonstrated, they think they get it, but they don’t. And by mis-using the tools, they have created a consumer terrorist who is complaining about them in blog comments. They would have been better off not tweeting a all?

    A very instructive story. Thanks for sharing!

  • Do you think the social campaign alone sold those cars? Probably had some help. I don’t know, I have seen some pretty amazing SM applications with big brands. Remember it is not necessarily just about hard dollar sales and a very effective campaign might be nearly invisible to you and me. The other thing I have found is that these companies are having success but don’t want to tell the world about it. Why would they? There is a lot more going on than we see … than we could imagine, probably!

  • I couldn’t agree more with this post. Well done. This is one of your best posts yet. If only more small business owners would read it! 

  • Angela

    It’s just hard to take that initial jump

  • http://mashable.com/2009/12/08/dell-twitter-sales/
    http://www.emarketer.com/blog/index.php/case-study-ibm-drives-millions-dollars-worth-sales-leads-social-media/
    – off the top of my head because those were obvious fairly well known ones.

    There are actually a considerable number of large corporation social media successes.  That’s not to say that small companies don’t benefit – it’s to say that you’re looking in the wrong places to find success if you think that it’s strictly based around Facebook brand page interactions.

  • I don’t know that I’d agree that it “favors” small businesses.  But it certainly can benefit them greatly!

    The thing is – just like any other form of media? What works for large corporations may not be the same thing as what works for small business. Would you say that television advertising favors one or the other? If a local business tried to buy time during the Superbowl to advertise nationally, we’d think they were insane and wasteful. Then again, if a global corporation went out and produced cheesy, low-quality, late-night local cable buy television ads – we’d wonder if someone there had gone of the deep end.  But as GoDaddy can attest? Some Superbowl ads are worth the cost.  Just as late-night cable buys targeted to the right audience (pizza delivery for the hungry college student after midnight?) are clearly revenue generating for local biz.

    It seems sensible to assume that the guy who thinks twittering non-stop for BofA is going to produce rabid fans despite the lack of personal connection and the guy who thinks small business owners can’t afford to waste time on social media because they don’t have the money to run huge digital campaigns are equally wrong.  Better that the first looks at using social media channels as customer service oriented and market research channels and the second look at spending an hour a week connecting with their actual customers (whether on twitter, facebook, their own webpage or some other method) to make sure they are bringing value to the folks who are their true evangelists.

    Don’t you think?

  • One of my frustrations with the “big” companies who “do” social media is that it is, in fact not them. I have a couple of instances in mind saying this – one  involves a very SM active and large resort in Missouri. A few weeks prior to our visit there, I tweeted and FB’ed out to them that I was very excited to be visiting their lodge, posted a ton of pix thru Twitter and Instagram the entire time I was there (of course tagging them) and not one time did I get a response. Ever. I’ve had the same thing happen with an international fast food chain. Maybe I’m black balled.. who knows. But there are several local vendors who not only respond to me when I mention
     them but reach out to me if I check into an establishment near them.  

    If you’re a brand (no matter the size), you don’t have to be lifelong BFFs to reap the benefit of social. Pay attention, set up your alerts if you can’t monitor throughout the day and always, always respond. More and more often, it’s becoming the thing that can win or lose a lifelong customer.

    That’s just my 2 cents. Can’t wait to see you in a couple of weeks!

  • Great post!!! The big companies always get all the press and attention. And often this makes the “little guy” feel like there’s no room to play. And, even more often, these small business operators don’t have the band width to really do this (even if they understood how). But, most certainly there are lots of examples where small businesses have done well leveraging social media, once they understand it.
    I still believe the problem (like so many other small business “solutions”) is that these people are totally on thier own to figure this out.  There’s nobody really out there to help them (because there has never been any money to be made in helping small business).

    I really hope this blog attracts some good case study examples and you can isolate them and highlight them on your web site.  People need to hear this.  People need to do this.  But, most importantly, as Gina Lynette said, they really need to do it right!  If they do, even in their “small” world, there will be an impact.

  • I wholeheartedly agree that social media IS the
    realm of small enterprise. In our experience utilizing social media with
    positive results has occurred with clients in musical instrument rental/retail,
    cultural organizations, real estate, social services and now commercial
    insurance. Working with my web developer and networking soul mate we’ve been
    experimenting with different packages in order to offer small businesses
    the tactical and creative benefits of a social media campaign that complements
    their offline networking strategy. 
    Articulating why this can work and how it is executed well is the easy
    part.  So far we haven’t been able
    to provide service at an affordable rate that works for both the client and the
    business. 

     

    On a more philosophical level, a local enterprise
    farming out their voice in the SM realm may be just as insincere as the large
    corporate speak that you refer to in your article.  I could really use some feedback from you Mark and your commenters.  What’s working for those of you that
    are SM professionals?  Should we be
    focusing on training small business owners to be effective networkers rather
    than providing the service for them? I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts.

  • Thanks for the kind support Russell!

  • So I’m too nice to be a curmudgeon, but I qualify as a terrorist? Now I have to go reorder my whole hierarchy of evil… 😉

    As to the “better off not tweeting at all” piece… their approach to social media absolutely cost them here. Honestly, if they’d just be a coupon/discount barker service and not pretended to be friendly, I would have probably stopped by just because they were local. I also wouldn’t have had my hopes up — I’d have mentioned the coupon, gotten my crepe and kept moving. The fact that they acted like humans online and not in the store was kind of stunning.

    And, yes, I’m still talking about it 2 or 3 years after the fact. (I may be a PollyAnna, but don’t think my feelings can’t be hurt. 😉 ) Just think what I’d be saying about them if they’d looked up, smiled at me, and said, “Hey, Glynette! Great to see you!” =D

  • I will check them out Lucretia. Thank you! I warn you I am a huge skeptic. And proudly banned from commenting at Mashable because I always show them their horrible reporting (basically they only cherry pick good news and refuse to ever report anything that gives Social a bad light since they obviously are very biased in need of success!)

    For example 2 summers ago there was a Nielsen study on Facebook Marketing. 124 campaigns. Only 21 campaigns had any measurable success. So they decided to eliminate the ones that didn’t work. Then mashable used that as proof Facebook campaigns are a success even though 5 in 6 failed.

  • First one is not a success. Sorry. Not in my book. They sell more product every minute online from their store. Too big a company too little in sales. (see I warned you LOL) That said I am sure it had positive ROI so I wouldn’t say they shouldn’t do it. Just needs perspective.

    Second one ‘Could’ be a success. I like the program. I like it a lot. But unless I see concrete numbers it sounds more like the guy is trying to prove to his bosses he has value. I want to see ‘Through Listening for Leads we built up a pipeline of $300 million in potential sales and have to date closed $25mil in sales’ And beyond that I want to know how many people are involved. IBM sells $100bil in product. They have thousands of sales reps. I would ask them how many reps are involved in this effort, how this has impacted their sales vs people doing the same job not incorporating social etc. I do like the program. But I have 14 years of direct B2B sales including to Fortune 500 companies and listening to me is labor intensive but it does work, I have used it myself. I would bet most IBM sales reps know all their target accounts. if I was a rep I would definitely find people on Twitter who are at those accounts to be friends with and possibly hear things that could be of value. But that would never replace my direct sales efforts it would accent them. Also there is 250 million people above the age of 14 in the US and only 10m-15m people in the US active on Twitter each day (based on world wide tweet volume) so it can only cover a small % of your targets. LinkedIn though with its professional industry groups I can see having a much higher impact.

  • Very true.  But companies (like yours) are well-suited culturally to do it! 

  • It all starts with strategy of course.  But the most important, and overlooked, element of SM success is company culture.  Huge impact. The theme of my article is that a smaller, flexible, faster-moving, less bureaucratic organization has a better chance of succeeding. And that sounds like a small business to me. Of course there are exceptions.  There are big companies who can act like small companies and small companies that are more politcally hamstrung than big companies I work with. But overall, the STRUCTURE and fewer layers of a small company theoretically should provide an advantage over a big one. Again, there are lots of exceptions.

    Thanks for the dissent! 

  • Outstanding comment!  Perfect example of people who don;t get it : ) 

    Look forward to rocking the house at ConvergeSouth in a few weeks! 

  • I would add this nuance.  Actually I think there are PLENTY of people who have hung out their shingle to be a social media guru to help small businesses. But there are very few good ones!!!

    Thanks for the excellent insight Steve!

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  • Wow Scott. You have so many good questions there! I probably need to do a blog post about this, but here are a couple of high-level thoughts.

    1) I have rarely seen an out-sourcing model that works.  SM takes time and labor with no quick ROI (usually). Businesses who out-source probably are looking for a quick fix and rapidly lose patience and quit.

    2) I don;t see how you can make money off of this for MOST small customers unless you figure out a way to out-source to lower-cost overseas resources, which I believe is largely impractical when you are trying to build human real-time connections. 

    3) I have done a few experiments with outsourced social media management and it just sucks as a business model. I have quit the idea with the exception of a very large company I am working who I am helping to build a dedicated out-sourced social media “call center.”

    This is just me, but I am through with “doing” social media for people at least as a long-term arrangement. I think coaching people to do it is the best solution. If they don’t want to do it they will probably fail any way.

  • Have you really been banned from Mashable?  I’m not worthy!!  Sounds like a guest post?

  • Don’t forget to change your business cards, too 

    Thanks, this is a really great case study! 

  • Love this post and i agree with you completely, love social media for small businesses, couldnt agree more on the personal tough which big brands lack… a lot! 

    Small is the new big in social media and i think it will stay that way for a while. 

  • Wise words. Thanks! This is why I come here 🙂

  • Love the JaVerde example, Mark! As your piece showed, small businesses really have the opportunity to make those personal connections since they’re in the shop/on location (an advantage that not every big business has). 

    I think this is much more valuable, from a customer’s perspective, than constantly posting product news or related tips and the occasional coupon. It shows that you’re engaged, you’re listening, and that you’re able to take those online relationships offline… assuming you have a great product/service to back it up (which doesn’t sound like was the case in Gina’s experience, unfortunately).

  • Howie you and I have very different versions of what a “success” is – if the minimal amount that Dell put into the  @delloutlet:twitter  account earning them millions every year isn’t a success in your book. Just because social media doesn’t have a *bigger* ROI dollar-wise doesn’t mean it doesn’t percentage-wise.  Perspective counts – but I don’t believe that something isn’t a success simply because it doesn’t replace a different form of marketing.

    I could probably go find more for you. I know one of my clients that is a global corp experienced huge, measurable successes via their social media efforts – however, in that case, and NDA prevents me from disclosing.  That example alone convinces me.  But it seems that your skepticism puts the bar high enough that the Dell story isn’t successful to you – so it does seem like there’s little point to my hunting down more.  If you really wanted to find examples? You could do your own search. But I suspect that you aren’t looking for them, so much as looking to disqualify them. 

    As it is? If we continued, it’s simply a situation where I would have to go find examples in order for you to attempt to shoot them down. Pointless activity on my part as I don’t have any vested interest in persuading you.  So I’ll stop while it’s still just a pleasant exchange. 

    I’m sure that if you want to find examples at some point of corporations who have been successful in their social media use where it has had direct and measurable ROI, with your intelligence and resources, you are more than capable of doing it without my assistance.

    Best wishes.

  • I’m glad you brought this up, Scott – and that you replied, Mark! As a small business owner myself, and knowing a lot of them, the idea of adding social media on top of everything they already try to do to stay afloat in this economy is so daunting. To have someone who will simplify their options, give them only the info about the technology that they need, and be there to coach and encourage them through the initial implementation until it feels like part of the routine seems very appealing! Do you see many social media professionals taking that approach? The other factor is that small businesses don’t have big budgets to pay for coaching. How does a SM professional do this kind of coaching work (which would be very rewarding) and actually make a living?? (That may be too big of a question to answer here….mostly just thinking out loud!)

  • Yes! Excellent points, Mark. The personal touch aspect is the most significant in my opinion because its quite often the business owner/entrepreneur who is updating profiles and making connections with their audience (building community), usually because its economical… that one on one interaction is a big reason connecting with small business’ is intriguing for consumers. Its access to a person who CARES! If only small business owners would keep that personal touch, even after they grow…

  • Thanks Mark.  That’s really been our thing you know.  In our micro-climate of mill-towns in transition there are a host of mainstream small businesses interested in effective application of our medium.  Given a combination of time management, cultural reluctance and skepticism they want to farm out their social media marketing like they would PR or advertising.  It’s as much about defining for them what SM is as it is training in the right application.  Your idea of working with owners one-on-one resonates with me as that’s a big part of what I do focusing on other strategic parts of their business.  I’d appreciate a post focusing on this topic.  Keep the great blog posts coming!

  • Kathy, I can only speak for the work we’re doing but, I think that working with professionals to heighten their perspective and abilities using social media can be offered as a stand alone service, or incorporated with a broader service, such as coaching a professional or entire sales department through a strategic niche approach to sales.  Pricing would need to be figured out, and I would start a social media program with as much of a ‘turn-key’ approach as possible to avoid missing details and to ensure you devise a program that can be just as useful with the totally uninitiated as with someone with moderate skills.  

    I think that the technical training means nothing though if you can’t apply all of the elements of a successful networking and strategic sales plan.  Successful relationship building is important no matter where it is expressed.  How do you feel?

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  • I’ll work on it. I’m a full service blogger : )

  • One way I am addressing this is offering “instant” marketing advice through my website. One hour of coaching at your convenience. I haven’t promoted it much because I’ve been pretty swamped lately, but several medium sized and small businesses have tried this with great success so far. It can fit even a small budget and provide some very targeted direction.

  • I am so glad to see you back in the comment section Aaron!

  • Thanks very much for commenting Brittany.

  • Exactly! Well said. Thanks for sharing your view Kevin.

  • I agree that small businesses don’t have big budgets to pay for coaching. In cases such as these, perhaps a ‘diet routine’ will work better for these businesses. An initial evaluation to understand the business goals and objectives, then create a diet plan in which they are supposed to implement and follow where you guide them from the sidelines from time-to-time. This way, you have lesser time commitment and you’re still coaching them indirectly which may bring the coaching fees down 🙂

  • Mark

    One problem with many small businesses in general is that they overlook marketing and don’t budget for it. They think if they have a good idea, people will naturally just come to them. Usually, not!

  • In general, many small businesses simply overlook the need for marketing and don’t budget for it.

  • Good point!!!

  • Margaret Johnson

    Absolutely on point!  By the way, Margie Clayman sent me, and I’ve subscribed.  Thank you for being out there.

  • Margaret Johnson

    Okay, now that I’ve read all of the comments, I’d like to share a few thoughts.  First of all, despite all of the combined knowledge of the world of social media present on this page and elsewhere, there are a LOT of small business owners out there who don’t get it, can’t navigate it, and get defeated when they try it.  I advised a friend to get into groups on LinkedIn and start offering relevant comments to the discussions so that he could begin building his business profile.  His reply after several weeks “I keep getting notified that I am linked to people I’ve never heard of, so I quit doing that.”  We can’t forget that those folks do exist.

    Secondly, most of the social media platforms don’t advertise, while most of the email marketing platforms do.  I hear a Constant Contact ad on the radio pretty much every day during drive time.  If advertising is educating the small business owner, they aren’t getting all they need.  The ads all sound the same and advocate nothing different than a billboard or ad flyer – “all about me” marketing as opposed to “all about us” marketing.  In other words, no engagement.

    If we don’t offer value, we aren’t relevant.  While a sale flyer offers some value to some people, brand loyalty is non-existent.  Teaching small businesses to offer engagement and value is how we will teach them to build brand loyalty, and that’s the path to ROI for the small business.

    Like, the next time I’m in YOUR town, Mark, I’m going to tweet you and ask for directions to that coffee shop!

  • Scott, Jan and Mark –

    Thanks for your replies. I like the idea of an initial evaluation and help with thinking strategically (as you said, Scott), starting from a business owner’s goals (which, hopefully, they are clear on) and then identifying the social media strategies that make the most sense for them (which is where the SM “coach” would come in). Also I think there’s a need to reassure small business owners that they don’t need to do it all and certainly not all at once. So coaching them in a gradual implementation, adding one SM channel at a time. Not only would that make it seem more manageable, but it would also be much better for evaluating cost/benefit if you’re only implementing one marketing change at a time. 

    As for the whole “making a living” thing, the goal seems to be to identify processes and tools that, as you said, Scott, would be useful with a range of clients – and that they could implement without a lot of hand-holding – while also providing individualized consultation as needed.

    It would be a lot more fun to figure all of that out, learning by practicing, if a person didn’t have bills waiting to be paid…  But thank you for helping me think it thru – I do love “social construction” in action! 

  • I actually saw a great panel at SMX Advanced in Seattle where the speaker focused almost exclusively on case studies for local, 2.0-esque businesses like Coolhaus.  It was revelatory.  But yeah, largely speaking, those brands are eschewed for the often-great work they do in the social media sphere.  I can’t say I get it.

  • Gina, I find your example to be fascinating.  I wonder just how many more examples there are like this – only friendly online?

  • I agree with this observation – but there is one group of SMB’s who can pool their limited resources for local advertising, franchisees.  There is a wide range of social media usage within the franchise industries.

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  • Gina Lynette
    PollyAnna — Terrorist — Blog Comment Hijacker

  • Anonymous

    Great article and love the ‘pie chart’ joke.. I am a speaker and speak all over the UK on the subject of why businesses should be on Twitter… Sadly for me i see too many conferences and events where all the speakers are from massive corporates with zillions of dollars to throw at social media… how does the 1 man band or small business relate to that? exactly… they cant…

    Twitter is a game changer for small business – Why? because it is no longer about who has the deepest pockets… it is not about who has the most money to spend.. everyone on Twitter has the same opportunities to listen, engage be interesting, and interested in others…

    I love to hear great stories of small businesses really embracing Twitter…

    thanks

    Mark Shaw
    @markshaw:twitter 

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  • Thanks for your insight! As a Board Member of a local Main Street organization and volunteer at SCORE’s Lancaster, PA Chapter, I appreciate the reinforcement that local small businesses have the edge over big box brands in building trust and loyalty via social media. 

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  • Mike Speranza

    The problem is social media can easily go either way, as once the message is out, you’re no longer in control, not like you use to be with old media. It can go viral in ways you never intended.
    Which is why big companies are very careful about what they do in this space.
    Smaller businesses have little to lose on the other side. To some extent, any publicity is better than oblivion.

  • Geoffrey Winn

    This is equally true for smaller professional firms, who can leverage online content (especially blogs & content marketing) to overcome the ubiquitous reach of lqrger competitors.

  • Dennis Fischman

    Steve, I think small businesses and community-based nonprofits are in the same boat: they have natural advantages for connecting with their community on social media but not enough time to do it. Do you support any local charities that do an especially good job on social media? Why not ask them for a referral?

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