“We should do some social media”

driving-traffic-from-social-media-300x300This Wednesday’s Struming is about the growing interest in social media and the fascination of American business to “do social media”. However, starting a social media program with an ill formed strategy which is too often merely passed down to the most junior staffer or an intern (“because they know this stuff”) is a bad way to launch a program. Inevitably when the program lacks traction and results, the same company loses interest, deems it a failure, and cuts all activity.

I recently read a well written post on this subject called, Why Many Small Businesses Fail at Social Media. The author is Ali Goldfield, from ADR Social Media. I don’t know Ali, or the company, but her thoughts were very smart. Here they are in their entirety. Thanks for sharing Ali.

“I’ve Done Social Media and it Doesn’t Work”

As a social media manager, I’ve heard many clients say these exact words. It took a while but I have now learned how to hear those words without laughing. It’s the whole concept that social media is something to be “done,” like it’s the end result of a process. Social Media isn’t a thing to be done. It’s just a part of a process of business promotion that includes of advertising, marketing, communication and most importantly, creating relationships.

In the business world, social media can be a great tool to use to promote your products and services. Social media sites can help you build relationships with potential customers, increase the responsiveness and effectiveness of your customer service and find new and creative ways to generate more sales.  For the small business owner, social media can be especially effective if approached in the right way.

For the small business, social media needs to be about the conversation between their business and its customers, or potential customers and building a level of trust and loyalty.  In their rush to do social, there are some fundamental errors that many small businesses make when they initiate a social media strategy to further their business. The initial mistake occurs when they use social media to showcase their own products and services and fail to connect with other business or their customers. In order to succeed using social media, social media must be used as one of the strategies to increase business. Take note of the following truths:

Social Media Isn’t Quick

As a small business owner, time is money and typically, there isn’t a large marketing budget to go around. The first mistake many small business owners make when starting a social media campaign is thinking that because of the numbers – 900 million on Facebook, 200 million of Twitter – social media is a quick fix. As a result, the small business owner often gets excited about the potential of social media. They sign up on various social networking platforms, they post and tweet and get a few followers. They toot (or tweet) their own horn and can’t figure out why their company hasn’t gone viral yet.  They fail to realize that social media is a long-term process that should be integrated into their overall marketing strategy.

Social Media Is About Listening to Your Audience

When a small business owner creates a social media plan focusing solely on marketing and sales, they have totally missed the boat. The key word in social media is, of course, social. While an end result of a complete social media and marketing strategy is about increasing your business and, ultimately, sales, it needs to start with a conversation. No one goes on a social media site to be talked at, sold to or to see constant advertisements. While there is nothing wrong with a bit of self-promotion, it’s a mistake to spend the majority of your time promoting yourself and your business. As an entrepreneur, it is up to you to listen to your customers instead of just sending out messages all the time. Listening to your audience, responding and providing them with excellent service and value is the best way to create a strong and loyal following who will, in turn, promote your business for you.

Social Media is about Having Realistic Expectations

For the small business to be successful with social media, they need to go into the process with realistic expectations. You will not get rich overnight just because you join a few social media sites and start promoting them. It will take time to be successful with this form of marketing. As long as you go into it with the expectation that social media is not a panacea for a failing business and that it will take some time to develop strong relationships with your audience, you’ll be fine.

Social Media Isn’t About Being Everywhere

One mistake many small business owners make it that they believe for social media to work, they have to everywhere, at all times. While it’s true that there will always be a new network to get involved with but as a small business owner, it’s likely that you only have a limited amount of time, money and manpower to devote to their social media social strategy.

In reality, creating an effective social media well doesn’t mean you need to be everywhere. In fact, a neglected social media presence can do more harm than good. It’s actually better to not have an account if you don’t have the time and resources to actively manage it and participate. Instead, choose one or two of the most appropriate and effective channels for reaching your customers and focusing on these channels.

You Are Not a Big Business (And That’s OK)

While small businesses do not have the money and staff power that large companies do, they do have a distinct advantage. They are able to move faster, be more personal, more flexible and build a stronger, more intimate relationship with their audience. Because of the nature of small business, you know your products and services inside and out. Most of your tasks are performed in-house, which means you aren’t outsourcing your social media.  You are better able understand what motivates their clients. While the content they create may never go viral, small businesses can create a more personal experience for their audience than a big brand ever could.

Social media is here to stay. Using small business social media as part of a well-thought out social media and marketing campaign is definitely worth is. It takes persistence, time, confidence, tweaking and a positive attitude. If you’re going to do social media, do it well, and do it like a small business.

There are many small businesses that successfully use social media. However, before you “do social media” create a strategy and a plan to measure your progress. If you do, you’re far more likely to succeed.

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