Small Business Social Media – Is It a Viable Option?

In a world that is becoming smaller because of our access to the Internet, it gets larger at the same time because of our ability to reach more people with our message through the use of the Internet. Small Business Social Media use is in it’s infancy whereas large businesses use it successfully now. Large business success is due partly because of the huge budgets they throw at it. Money can buy results. So where does that leave the small business owner trying to compete with the big guys? In a difficult position.

Small business Social Media needs to be addressed with a different filter. Large businesses that have millions of customers don’t really interact with their customers on Twitter or Facebook, they talk to them instead. The keyword here is “to”. The greatest asset the small business owner has is a small customer base that can be drawn into the conversation because they know you, they have probably met you and have a feeling about you. Can the SEO of Ford say that? No. So using this more personal connection what can the small business owner do to capitalize on this?

  • Ask all of your current customers to follow your Twitter account and Like you on Facebook.
  • Ask them to leave comments about you on their own social media accounts.
  • Reward them for being proactive in helping you – Discounts, specials, etc.
  • Ask for reviews when they are happy! (Set up Google, Yelp and other review accounts)
  • Talk with them, ask them what they like, what they want, what they do for fun and recreation on your Twitter page.
  • Retweet their tweets – promote them as people others should know.
  • Use their quotes on Twitter and Facebook. People love to be quoted – it makes them an authority and it spreads positives about you.

In other words have a conversation that is more than telling them what your current sale or promotion is. Think of it this way, Twitter is the old water cooler in the office. People take breaks from their work to hang out and talk about anything but work! They talk about sports, travel, wine, dining out, craft beer. Who is seeing who and who no longer is seeing anyone and why. People by nature are social, they love to communicate, talk, get to know each other. That’s what Twitter does in 140 characters. And just like in real life if someone constantly runs over 140 characters we get bored with the boar because they tend to talk only about themselves. We all want to be heard, so keep in mind how important it is to hear your customers.

Facebook allows for more space and therefore interaction. Give them something to talk about like, themselves. Call them out by name, by what they have done in their business or personal lives that others might enjoy hearing. Ask them to comment on it. Ask everyone to share it with others. Do not over sell on any social media site, always undersell yourself and oversell how great your customers are. You don’t exist without your customers not the other way around. Your customers made you, help them in the same way.

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome in small business social media is time involved in updating and what to say. I covered the basics of what to say but the time issue is real. Small business owners can get sucked into a very large black hole that destroys hours and even days if they let. So have someone within your company handle the basic social media duties. They can tweet and retweet, just don’t let them build relationships with other business owners that think they are getting to know you. You must spend about 15 minutes a day talking to peers on your Social Media sites and occasionally give a personal tweet, comment or status update about your customers. Easiest way to do this is as you wrap up just before lunch and give 10 or 15 minutes on you smart phone as you head out to eat. It really is that easy.

The second biggest obstacle in the mind of a small business owner is their Return on Investment of ROI. Business coaches, seminars, college lectures all talk about the need to measure your ROI. Small Business Social Media has a different ROI than money you put into direct marketing or an email campaign. Social media is about building relationships. Have you ever met someone, built a relationship with them but never did business with them? Of course you have, every day. But have you ever received a referral from that same person to someone they know that needs your service or product. Probably. ROI in social media is tough to measure but it is there. Just retaining loyal customers because they feel they have a personal connection with you is a form of ROI.

ROI for social media also shows up in your search engine rankings. SEO firms are known for poo pooing Small Business Social Media as a waste of time. However all major search engines, Google, Yahoo and Bing use social media in their measurement of how popular your web site is. They look at how many people are talking about you or your site. They measure the quality of the relationships (is the person or site talking about you related to your field?) and the quantity of those relationships (how many different sites). Shares by others of your social media is rated very important by Google and Bing. Remember that Bing has a Joint Venture with Facebook. For no other reason than to help your SEO page rank you need to be using small business social media to help your business grow.