A Consultant's View

Prairie Trail Software, Inc. ............................................................. February 2013

Social Media - How to use it for small business?

Social Media can be overwhelming. With all the new Social Media outlets, a person could spend most of their time trying to keep up between Twitter "feeds", Facebook postings, Yelp, Digg, and more. Can small business keep up or use Social Media to promote their business? There are ways, but the focus should be first on providing the best products and services and then on telling a compelling story.

In one way, Social Media is operating just like traditional media. In the initial rush of any new media form, it is new, creative, full of new people with new ideas, and these new ideas sell. This happened with radio, TV, and the Internet. The common assumption is that this new media will always produce such effects. That assumption is not true.

Social media advertising is not generating the sales in the way that people expect. A recent measurement of the ROI of ads on Social Media suggested that less than 1% of purchases were generated by such ads. Many a Social Media campaign is not measured on how many people buy, but on how popular the ad is or how many people "like" the brand's page. Such "Branding" is a luxury that only large, profitable companies can do.

Small business needs to sell, not spend on a "brand". To get those sales, traditional media starts with "the story". Content rules over ads. If there is no content, ads rarely work. Few people see the commercials in a bad TV show. To get that content, traditional media outlets rely very heavily on professionally produced material that is "syndicated". Almost all small newspapers print material from one or more of the wire services. Social media is proving to act the same way. Small businesses republish (re-post or re-tweet) something that a professional produced.

Beyond the stories in any media, there are the reviews. Most major newspapers have reviewers posting their opinions of restaurants and other venues. Similarly, there are many web sites that offer reviews.

But, those reviews are not manageable. (If they were, that high end restaurant would not have gotten that terrible review in the newspaper recently.) Instead, the best results for a small business happen when they focus on doing the best they can for each customer. In the mean time, it can be entertaining to read about the notable failures or differences in opinion. In reading about the Piratz Tavern that refused the "Bar Rescue" and then reading the customer reviews written afterwards, we can see how not to serve the customers.

Finally, the word "Social" is critical. Customers want to interact with you, not just purchase something from you. Social Media is marketing far more than it is sales. That means thinking long term about what you want posted up there and the types of special offers that you want to provide.

It can be quite a challenge to add social media to your marketing efforts. However, people have reported good results by doing so.