How to Explain Social Media to Local Small Businesses: Give Examples

Sometimes at speaking engagements before business owners when I cover trends in social media, I know I am not making it real if I see eyes wandering and feet shifting.  

I know what they’re thinking:  “This social media stuff sounds like something from Mars or Jupiter — or the West Coast.  It has no meaning to my business here in the local community.”

I’ve learned that to explain social media I have to get specific and granular. By that I mean giving actual examples of how real businesses like theirs might use social media sites, blogs, podcasts and video.

That’s why I found Chris Brogan’s post today so helpful. He gives 8 examples of ways to use social media to promote local businesses.  Here’s one:

Dentist – Contribute to town events blog and add a 250 word Dental Tip.

Social media is one of the major marketing trends of our time. Yet, it suffers from being hard to explain to business people. 

First, there is the difficulty of explaining something radically different. If you haven’t used social media sites before, it can be tough to grasp what they’re all about just from a verbal description.  They’re so unlike anything we’ve experienced in the past.

Second, the topic of social media is riddled with conceptual terminology and a lingo all its own.  It’s the double whammy — a combination of marketing-speak and technospeak — two languages that sometimes need translation for mere mortals like the rest of us. 

Third, the business value of social media is hard to demonstrate. While social media activities may sound like fun entertainment for teenagers, just how those activities will bring customers in the door usually is not obvious. 

No wonder so many business people are skeptical.

Marketers, SEO professionals, Web designers, business communicators and PR professionals, you have a special job: you have to translate general concepts about social media into actionable advice in small digestible bites. Offer specific actionable examples like the ones Chris offers.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

7 Reactions
  1. Maybe what might’ve been pertinent is to show how this would tie to ROI or at least Return on Influence. For instance, think of my tattoo artist example. If you were my mom, who got her first tattoo at 50-something, to honor the birth of her granddaughter (don’t ask me), you might appreciate a video tour and interview with the artist to make sure you weren’t headed to meet a one-eyed shakey guy with nudie pictures over every wall. (Come to think of it, I never did ask who did the work for her).

    Maybe it’s all in showing where the bottom line changes. Because these same people dont’ have much loot, nor do they have much time to actually MAKE media. So there has to be a fairly quick, clear return.

    I’m tempted to do this for absolutely free to prove my point. : )


  2. Anita,

    I just wanted to mention that this article was very helpful to me. I frequently find myself stuck in between the physical and virtual business worlds; and relating things from one to the other can be extremely difficult. Especially when it comes to social media.


    – Mason

  3. I may be ahead of the curve here, but when I want to go to a restaurant or local store, I’m almost turned off if they don’t have a website. Businesses that take that extra effort to understand and implement technology get my money every time.

    Susan Payton
    Egg Marketing & Public Relations

  4. Social marketing will take its place at the top of all types marketing very soon. What people want is what others have so why not ask them which is best and which will work for me. For scootertronics its works well word of mouth and forums are our top ways to get sales and life long customers. As far as video the products we have video on sell the most even thoughthey are not maybe the best we have, we are also going to put all who woks here on video so our customers can met us all and understand that we are just as they are so they will buy from us.

  5. Social media can provide marketing opportunities, but it has to be well thought out and implemented. I think many businesses get excited about social media and just jump in to projects. It’s important to consider your audience (will they even read your blog or listen to podcasts?) and the value of the content that you wish to present. Right now, blogs seem to be the hype, but just putting one up on the Internet won’t bring in revenue.

  6. Social media is the way to go promoting any business, it’s proven every day. Really interesting tips from Chris Brogan.