I conducted an informal poll, asking
17 online-savvy entrepreneurs and small business owners / managers to answer the following question:
“If your goal is to grow a small business online, and you had time for only one social networking / social media site, which would you choose and why?”
The responses were, to say the least, intriguing. Here they are in alphabetical order by author:
Paul Chaney, Conversational Media Marketing — “I’d create a blog. I know that’s not the answer you’re looking for, but had I only time for one, a blog is where I’d start. My blog is foundational to most of my social media interactions. It is where I clearly establish my voice and claim my turf. Of course, with social networking, like a certain brand of potato chip, who can have just one?!”
Laurel Delaney, GlobeTrade — “I would never stick with only one social networking/social media site to grow my business online. Technology is changing too fast. By the time you publish this article, our answers will be irrelevant. You have to think about and act on tomorrow, today. Otherwise, you will be left behind.”
Yvonne DiVita, WME Books — “Blogging is still the best way to grow a small business online. A blog built on Typepad, for instance, becomes an interactive newsletter, with the ability not only to attract search engine attention, but to build authentic conversations with clients and vendors. Blogging creates friendships that lead to referrals. I recommend Typepad because it comes with all the bells and whistles, and a responsive helpdesk.”
Jonathan Fields, Awake at the Wheel — “It depends on the nature of your business and the reason you are joining. Each hub has it’s own culture and preferred content type, so I would familiarize myself with the major ones, learn what drives each (content sharing, casual friending, business networking), then devote your energies to the hub that aligns best with the nature of your business and your reason for wanting access.”
Shirley George Frazier, Solo Business Marketing — “Twitter, by far, leads the pack. It: 1) alters your isolation as you view friends’ activities, 2) provides solutions and ideas through quick interaction, and 3) lets you share triumphs and challenges on the fly. The application makes it easy to work alone, be sociable, and still have time to satisfy clients.”
Shama Hyder, After the Launch — “The NUMBER #1 place to network online successfully for small businesses is (drum roll please) … Facebook. It is a professional yet easy to use platform that lets you network with colleagues, reach out to prospects/clients, and leverage your profile to strengthen your brand. Oh, and the high organic ranking on Google is a nice plus too. = ) ”
Shara Karasic, Work.com — “I would choose social networking site Facebook. Here’s why. Facebook reaches over 35 million U.S. monthly unique visitors. Last year Facebook saw an 89% increase in unique visitors to the site, and has seen a demographic shift away from college students and towards post grads. Facebook now allows you to create a fan page for your business which lets you communicate with your customers, get insights into what they want, and lets them show support and tell their friends. Since anyone can build an application for Facebook, you can easily integrate your Facebook efforts with content syndication such as feeds or Twitter, as well as your presence on other business-oriented communities. So for many businesses, Facebook is a great central place for your social media efforts.”
Jennifer Laycock, Small Business Marketing Unleashed — “I never would have said this even 4 months ago, but I’d opt for Twitter. I’ve likened Twitter to “acceptable eavesdropping” and pointed out how easy it makes it to join the conversation. Twitter is one of the fastest ways to make inroads with other people in your industry. It also gives you some insight into who companies and bloggers are as people; their likes, their dislikes, their personalities. This can be invaluable when it comes to putting together pitches and building relationships both inside and outside of your industry.”
Brent Leary, CRM Essentials — “Although I’m pretty involved in a number of social sites, Facebook is by far the most important one for me. My Facebook network is growing much faster than the others, and the people on Facebook are more active. So my relationships are growing deeper and wider, as is my exposure and credibility.”
Martin Lindeskog, Blue Chip Business Cafe — “If I had to pick only one, it would be Facebook. First I started to use it as a personal networking site, trying to catch up with old friends, classmates, etc. Later on I have seen the possibilities to reach out to potential customers, new business partners and contacts. You could easily integrate other social networking sites on your Facebook page, e.g. LinkedIn.”
Matt McGee, Small Business SEM — “Oh, wow, this is an impossible question! It really depends on what type of small business you have. Are you a retailer? Are you selling a service? Are you an information provider? There are right and wrong social media/networking sites for each of these. YouTube or Flickr would be great for some small businesses, but not others. Since you’re not giving any details on the business type, I’ll say StumbleUpon simply because it can be one of the quickest ways to get eyeballs to a Web site. But that’s not the right answer for all small businesses.”
George Nemeth, Brewed Fresh Daily — “I’d choose the one with the demographics that match closely with the demographics I was trying to reach, i.e., the audience on Facebook is older than the demographics on MySpace. Facebook is also much less rock ‘n’ roll than MySpace is.”
Wendy Piersall, eMoms at Home — “I’d have to say it really depends on your business, but if I had to choose one, it would be Twitter. Nearly every niche has a community on Twitter, and it is flexible enough of a platform for both socializing & appropriate self-promotion. Twitter is to social media what Sundance is to film festivals. THE place to meet the people & find the latest on the cutting edge of business, technology, & social media.”
Ann Rusnak, Just 15 Minutes — “It’s a toss up between Facebook and Twitter but since I need to choose one, Twitter wins. Using Twhirl application to Twitter allows me to effectively use my time to connect, establish and build relationships. When you first open it up, it organizes all those who replied and sends direct messages. I’m finding Twitter an excellent resource and education tool. If you need some help or not sure about something, someone always offers answer for you.”
Ivana Taylor, StrategyStew — “It was a toss up between LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, but I choose Facebook. Facebook gives you the degrees of separation and connections that you can use to build new one-on-one relationships. But I think it’s the ability to promote yourself and your events with groups that wins out for me.”
Tamar Weinberg, Techipedia — “This is a really tough question to answer. Some social media sites cater to certain audiences whereas others cater to an entirely different demographic. Some sites have strict rules for allowable content and others give the submitter free reign and then let the members decide on whether the content will be promoted to a larger audience. The answer really depends on your own small business’s goals: are you aiming for brand awareness? Conversions? Dialogue? All of these factors and clearly-defined goals need to be considered before you can settle on a single social network, as some are better performers than others.”
Barry Welford, The Other Bloke’s Blog — “Unless there is a specific social medium for your market niche, I would suggest trying to grow a following in Facebook if that would work for the potential network of clients and prospects. That can handle the viral marketing approach better than others if time is limited. It also would click in faster. You just need to get other evangelists to help you spread the word.”
The tally of the above responses is:
“It all depends” – 4 votes
Blogs – 2 votes
StumbleUpon – 1 vote
Surprised? What say you?
(Please note: Following the initial publication, I updated this post to add two additional entries that I had inadvertently overlooked in my disaster of an inbox.)
Thanks for including me. This is a terrific roundup and a great question!
Jonathan Fields is dead on. Just as with any other marketing tactic, strategy must drive it. What’s your business about? What networks do your customers and prospects utilize? What are your business objectives? Too many marketers and business owners latch on to a tactic that is cool just because it is cool. Do the heavy lifting up front and the tactics you select will sort themselves out.
Hi George! I have to add the backstory around your comment for the benefit of everyone reading:
George gave his contribution for this roundup back to me in 2 Twitter messages! (Two because it wouldn’t fit into just one.)
So how’s that for multiple use of social media?
The social media of my choice would have to be Facebook. I have been a Facebook user since its inception and have about 700 genuine friends through the site. I now have a business page on Facebook and I am able to promote my business directly the contacts that want to support me. The business page offers analytics and a place for you to add an RSS to your blog to keep your fans updated on your business. Facebook offers the best solution for constant contact marketing, which is key in the business world today. Here is an example of a business page on Facebook at http://companies.to/pitchyourbusiness/.
Interesting, Anita. I so disagree with everyone who said Facebook. I’m totally turned off by Facebook. It’s annoying, intrusive, and not very much help to me. It’s so slow and actually bothersome, I fail to understand why anyone continues to use it. Clearly, from your responses, I’m missing something.
Twitter, yes…that works. I’m still trying to assimilate how well it works, but, in the end, the blog becomes the online office/social networking site/meeting place, that works for me. My blog(s) demonstrate who I am and why others should or might connect with me. None of the other tools really do that… IMHO.
Great conversation, though.
I recently discovered Small Business Brief (www.smallbusinessbrief.com) , and it appears to be a great social news site for small businesses. I’ve been lurking there, but I intend to start participating soon.
I’m amused at your responses only because I didn’t think of answering “a blog”. I kind of assumed that was a given. Silly me. 🙂
Blogging first – you have to create an online presence before you can network it!
I never would have found this great summary without Twitter, so there’s my answer.
Great topic, and great resource list. Who is that George Nemeth dude?
The Franchise King Blog
Thanks for including me in this round up. = )
I would also have said “it depends”-but you made me choose. ; )
Facebook has its own nuances. I can’t say its a waste of time because we get prospects every week from it. I have also grown my list considerably using Facebook. So far-great tool.
Interesting post and interesting results. Like Jeff, I’m a regular reader of smallbiztrends, but wouldn’t have found it so fast without Twitter which has become an invaluable people-powered filter and signpost for the web.
Twitter as a time-saving device for small business owners … now there’s a thought which runs counter to the Hugh McLeod quits tweeting meme 😉
Count me in with those who said that they’d create a blog.
I still think a blog can reach the widest audience.
Solo Business Marketing
Great perspectives from everyone, including the comments. It’s wonderful to consider options from other marketers and to visit their Web sites.
I just started using Twitter and I’m really liking it – nothing like real-time networking. 😉
Top of my list though, is blogging to promote your business, and then combine it with Twitter.
I would not have found this article without twitter. I am glad I did as it has provided me with some new ideas. I would have never considered facebook as a place to promote a small business. I have a lot to learn about social marketing and I am one twitter at a time! thanks emoms
I recently abandoned Facebook and Twitter. For me, both had too much personal info mixed in with the professional & resulted in lots of interruptions with little value. So far, I’ve had best results from blogging and hanging out in industry-specific forums.
Much appreciate being part of all this, Anita. I think the comments are just as important as what you put together.
For the record, I voted for Facebook although I don’t find it works for me as a participant. However in making a choice any business owner shouldn’t choose what works for them but what works for their customers and prospects. It’s that old customer-centric approach again.
In the same vein, I’m finding Twitter works for me as casual conversation. You hope people are listening but you never know. However I would never suggest this for any business owner. It’s probably a waste of time unless you’re Jason Calcanis.
Top of the chart although I don’t regard this as social media is Blogging. Blogging is just a way of making a website that has life! .. and I’ll counter the vote for TypePad. WordPress particularly version 2.5 is the best thing since sliced bread, to use an old expression.
LOL, much like Wendy, I never even thought to answer “blog.” In my mind, it’s up there with having a web site. It’s not a choice, it’s something you just do… 🙂
Thus, my answer of Twitter. Like others, I still fail to see the value in Facebook. I can see some benefits for events because you can check out who is attending, decide who you want to network with, have conversation before the show, etc… but in terms of every day use? I just don’t get it yet.
It’s great to see everyones opinions. I am especially surprised at how many people find Facebook and Twitter useful. I guess I’m just behind the times. I got to get in gear and start blogging.
I’m curious, how many hours a day do you spend on Twitter? It seems to me like it would be very time consuming.
Wow! No LinkedIn? Back to FB I guess for me…
@Amanda I have Twitter running through G-talk popped out as a sidebar and it’s on all day. A continuous stream. Think of it as something like a newswire.
If you’ve ever worked in a press office or news room as I have, you don’t spend all day glued to the wires, but occasionally something catches your eye and it’s a gem.
But it’s also a two way newswire. Ask a question and very often there’ll be a lot of smart people with an instant answer. Probably best suited to a homeworker or freelancer, but I could see Twitter being enormously useful for distributed workforces in smaller businesses too.
Ditto Wendy and Jennifer re: a blog. The question was “which social media site”, so I skipped stuff I’d be using on my own site. 🙂
Good survey. I think you should count mine as “it depends,” Anita. I only said StumbleUpon because I felt obligated to list one. But I agree more with all the “it depends” people!
Thx for inviting me to be part of the conversation.
Good responses to a tough survey.
My vote is that it all depends, but for most small businesses they should start with a blog.
I appreciate everyone who said a blog is the key focus — and on the one hand I definitely agree with that.
On the other hand, I was intending to get at the question of “after a blog, what else would you participate in?” I probably should have phrased the question that way.
Because the reality is, even with a blog, you’ll want to reach out beyond your blog. I hear from so many entrepreneurs who say “I have a blog but I don’t get much traffic.” Social media sites are a way to reach out and touch people beyond the boundaries of your own blog.
It’s like being the new kid in school. You have to go out of your way to make friends.
Up to now I haven’t thought of signing up to a social media site, but after hearing all the comments on Twitter I am going to sign up and give it a go.
This is a fantastic round up Anita, thanks! I myself have a blog with an RSS feed that goes to my Facebook page and am getting geared up to start Twittering so it shows up on my FB profile. So many social sites, so little time! You’re right about having to promote your blog, and having so many options to choose from is a problem. I’ve heard good things about StumbleUpon from two blogging buddies, so that’s next on my (very long) list of social media to check out.
As usual, great post, great question. And wow, i am surprised. I love LinkedIn and have not been as keen about Facebook, although i see advantages when i get irked at LI’s policies or something goofy. Facebook is more open. And since i started using Twitter, i definitely see that one. I love the intelligent conversations that spawn here. Thank you.
Thanks for including Anita. I’m always so honored to be included in this community. Thanks to yoiur post on Twitter – I revitalized my “tweeting?” I’ve met so many wonerful people and been “clued-into” tools, applications, news and more.
The more I interact with social media, the more I realize that the focus of your business, where your ideal customers “hang” and how you choose to communicate and build your business and relationship is what should drive the level to which you participate in the variety of social media tools. I have to say it’s a mistake to ignore any of them. I think you have to measure your level of participation appropriately.
For example, I love the analogy of twitter as a newswire – I use it exactly that way. It’s sort of an “info-snack.” LinkedIn is more professional, I use it to manage my close connections. My rule for LinkedIn is I want to know you and you need to know me. If I called, I’d expect you to return my call within 24 hours. Facebook is much more open for me – and twitter is like an internet bar. I might not know you, but if I see you there over and over again, we’ll get to know each other. My blog feels like a front porch. People drop in, lurk, grab a snack and leave.
So – each site has it’s own uniqueness – it’s own experience and it’s own benefit to me.
Wow. Sounds like Twitter is the way to go these days, which kind of surprises me because I have been somewhat baffled by it myself. I’m on Twitter, but I think I should make it a point to update more regularly now, seeing the comments here.
A personal story:
Our blog provides “Working wisdom you can use” for business professionals. When we launched, we posted a few stories to a particular Reddit community for software developers and entrepreneurs. They were big hits and brought us a lot of referrals, new readers and warm comments.
We decided to continue posting our stories there, but our mistake was that the only thing we ever contributed to that community was our own stories. After a few months, everything we posted got buried within hours of submitting it. We had been labeled in many peoples minds as a “Spammer”!
Within most social media communities like Digg, Facebook, Reddit, Flickr, etc. people tend to react very negatively when companies try to inject self-interested commercial messages.
For people to respond positively to us, we need to gain their permission and their trust. This means being prepared to participate and add value to the community over the long run.
Arun Pal Singh
While social media sites are great source of traffic, the traffic is not useful for business conversion.
But social media is good platform to brand ourselves and that is what we should aim at.
In contrast to the instant traffic that it brings, I do not see the profits in immediate future. But social media helps to create an authority which would bring profits in the lon run.
If someone is relying on just social media for his business, he must understand that there is plenty of lag when you start looking for profits fromyour traffic
I’m really surprised that Biznik.com has not been mentioned, especially after their coverage by NPR yesterday. Biznik’s transparency, emphasis on face to face gatherings, excellent learning articles and forums, referral system and recently their additional of video profiles puts them way ahead of the game.
My post above was mistaken. Apologies in order…thats what happens when you only read a headline and skim the headings. I now realize you were talking about Social Media platform/strategy for growing your business. When I read “”If your goal is to grow a small business online, and you had time for only one social networking / social media site, which would you choose and why?” I thought you meant (by seeing the titles of the blogs/sites of the authors quoted) which SN/SM site would you use to support/grow your business.
Now, to put in my two cents on the *actual* topic:
Why in the world wouldn’t you grow a community around your business and/or industry niche, and use a platform like Ning.com to do it? By creating a personal SN site, you’ve got all the above listed elements (blog, twitter feeds, personal social-networking site, videos, etc.) all built in…and you’ve got clients/customers meeting, adding content, learning about your products/services, etc).
I found your study as a result of searching for infomration on the topic of small business and social networking, but what I’m trying to understand is how each of those scoial network sites actually helps you grow your business….I’ve played around with Linked In and Plaxo and yet haven;t really stumbled across compelling ways of leveraing the exponentially large networks of people 2 or 3 degrees out…..any thoughts or ideas?
How can social networking sites help? Here’s a few thoughts…
-They can help you form wider and deeper relationships with customers (increasing retention), staff (happier, better teams) or potential partners (new configurations),
-They can help you improve your product/service by getting immediate feedback
-The ethic of transparency that tends to come with new social media keeps your business on its toes, accountable, more approachable, less hierarchical in its org structure (thus, IMHO, healthier), etc.
-Its extremely easy for your current clients to become evangelists for your product/service
(Personally, I don’t think Linked and Plaxo are good examples for growing one’s business. Maybe for getting a job and finding partners…)
Anita: Thanks for including my pick. It looks like Twitter is coming strong…
Leif Hansen: Could you compare and contrast Biznik with Xing (formerly called openBC)? You have used Ning for your site, Spark Social Media?
I find using Twitter and maintaining a blog work best for me, as they are the least time consuming.
Yes, I SparkSocialMedia.com is a Ning site.
Xing and Biznik? Theres not even a comparison. Checkout the life at biznik and you’ll see.
I have signed up for SparkSocialMeiai and Biznik (click on my name).
I got this message:
“Your profile details must be approved by the Administrator before you can become a member of Spark Social Media. You will receive an email once your profile is approved.”
Good stuff !
And to those of you who asked what the immediate business value is: Keep in mind it was ultimately Anita’s amazing social network that made it possible for her to write such a good article for this website, which is of course a business.
And by the way, I found the article on Digg.com when I went to see what Amanda had been “Digging” lately.
Sorry about that…SparkSocialMedia will be fully live at the end of the week. You can see the first page and become an early tester only at this point.
A travel client of mine has Facebook down as their second largest sales channel outside of their own website. For them, it’s the right audience in the right social environment, where their brand fits right in naturally and unobtrusively.
I totally agree with Harry Hoover. Before you venture out, think about what your business message is and, more importantly, who your audience are and where you’re likely to find them online. Saying that, the costs of utilising these new channels is minimal compared to a full scale campaign, so it’s a brilliant time to try things out and optimise accordingly.
I use facebook, twitter, myspace and others to promote my business. I find that facebook does have more serious people than myspace. Advertising can be kind of hard with facebook since that have become more restrictive.
I know I’m late to the game; but the conversation is just so compelling!
My vote(s) would have to be for Stumbleupon and LinkedIn. In terms of social networking for the masses, I think Stumbleupon is the most accessible and covers so many topics. I’ve even received a few business leads through my Stumbleupon network! As others have mentioned, though, It does all come down to how well you use it…abuse it, and it won’t do anything for your business.
@Leif – I checked out BizNik, and it looks extremely interesting…I think you’ll be seeing more of me there!
Hello. I think you are eactly thinking like Sukrat. I really loved the post.
Just love this page and thanks for all the great stuff!!!!
I like Twitter and some of the Ning groups.
The difficulty about this question lies in the fact that certain types of marketing work better for some businesses than they do others. Accounting firms like ours don’t really thrive on twitter. There aren’t many people chomping at the bit to see what an accounting firm is up to daily. However, focusing on SEO or blogging is great for accounting and bookkeeping services.
To answer the question properly, I think it all depends on what industry you are in.
Eddy is totally correct!
Certain businesses will thrive within such communities whereas many would make little influence.
This is an old post. Can I still answer? I believe it’s Twitter because you can reach more people.