4 Social Media Truths SMBs Can Finally Admit

Earlier this week Anita shared 5 Trends Uncovered at BlogWorld, commenting on several blogging-specific trends she saw while attending the show this past weekend in Vegas. Like Anita, I, too, was lucky enough to be able to attend Blogworld and came back with my own takeaways. What I found was a surprising number of presenters and small business owners taking a different look at social media, forcing themselves to admit some hard truths. These are things that, at one time, often weren’t talked about. In fact, it was almost frowned upon to utter them!

Here are four social media truths I heard SMBs finally accepting at Blogworld.

1. You can’t be everywhere.

We keep hearing that our customers are everywhere – they’re on Twitter, on Facebook, in the blogosphere, on LinkedIn, and on sites that we can barely pronounce, let alone figure out how to work. For months we’ve been racking our brains trying to figure out how to create a real presence on all the different social media sites displayed on KnowEm. You know what we’ve learned? We can’t do it. And we don’t have to. Many of the presenters at BlogWorld let us know that this was OK. We don’t have to be everywhere. We just have to find our online community and then hang out there. Instead of running yourself ragged, pick one or two sites that work best for you and your community. Spend your time there.

2. You can’t always be “on.”

For those of us who live and breathe social media, this is a hard truth to learn. However, as Sonia Simone lectured as part of her morning keynote, you, as a person, are not scalable. The more you give social media, the more it will want. And you’re going to get to a point where you need to set boundaries around yourself and how you connect with people. It’s not realistic to think you can be on 24/7 and still run your business and take care of your body. Sonia commented that if you feel social media is taking more than you can give it, it’s because you haven’t set a boundary–and you need to. Despite what the Social Media Gods tell us, it’s OK to ignore those last 10 e-mails and go to bed. Heck, it’s OK to ignore them just to watch TV. It’s up to you to draw your own line in the sand.

3. You can’t please everyone.

Social media has created this myth that we can please everyone. We have Twitter and blogs and tools like GetSatisfaction to notify us the instant our customers are distressed. However, despite your best efforts, you won’t always be able to save the day. This was true before social media, and it’s still true today. Sometimes the problem will be out of your control, other times it’ll be too late, and sometimes you won’t even be dealing with a real customer. You’ll be dealing with a troll or someone interested in launching a snark attack. Your job isn’t to please everyone. It’s to attract the people who want to connect with your business. Want to save yourself from some unnecessary headaches? Learn the difference between a troll and a snark attack.

4. You’re in social media to sell.

You know this, your customers know this, and it’s OK for you to admit it. You’re not in social media to develop a lifelong commitment to your customers. You’re in social media to build relationships so that customers will feel more comfortable buying from you. That means things like self promotion and marketing do have a place in social media; you just have to be careful about how you’re using them. Understand that you need to build relationships before you can leverage them and that while people hate being sold to, they love to buy (Brian Clark mentioned this during his keynote with Sonia). People want to buy products. They just want those products marketed to them on their terms. And that means creating the relationship before you have to call on it.

While the four statements listed above may not seem like anything new, I actually think they represent a growing shift in social media. In the past, we were told to focus on connections, to answer every e-mail, to respond to every blog comment, to be present on every platform possible. However, now that we’re watching these sites mature and our own energy deplete, we’re re-learning that it’s OK to say no.  We’re here to run a business, and sometimes our best has to be good enough. We’ve long been told that what attracts customers in social media is our ability to be human. Sometimes we have to remember that we are only human.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

16 Reactions
  1. Lisa, This is one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time – ANYWHERE! Thank you for giving permission to do in social media what we’ve all learned to do with face-to-face meeting requests, emails, voice messages, etc. You hit the nail on the head when you said to set boundaries. I started doing that a few months ago, because being involved in 4 business, writing articles, writing my own blog, freelancing on the side – I just needed to say STOP. Thanks for confirming my decision!

  2. I find it humorous how most people take things to such extremes. Thanks for adding a high-profile voice of reason to the mix.

  3. Lisa, this is awesome. Chris Brogan and I were tweeting about this topic a week or so ago. He asked what would you do differently if you did it again? My response was #1- you cannot be everywhere and you’ll die trying. Pick a few relevant channels and focus your efforts there.

    Also, be present in the conversation consistently. An update once a month, looks like your stuck on Google’s algorithmic wave! You only come around every 30 days…LOL

    Thanks for taking time to remind us again.


  4. Great piece! I LOVE the inclusion of number 4, although I’m confused at the assertion that you might only ever sell to people you already know. People who want to buy will often go to whomever can supply; this is especially true if a supplier isn’t in their network already, which we’ll know if we can see them asking their network for suggestions as to suppliers. And here’s the opportunity — listening for people asking for recommendations, as they’re all ready to buy and actually inviting contact. Bingo! Social media selling to people you don’t actually know. And think of the potential of that!

    Ian Hendry

  5. Most small business think that getting into social media is will turn on the revenue switch for them but as you point out that is not the case and it shouldn’t be the goal. Use social media as a way to connect with your customers and engage with people that are interested in your products.

  6. Lisa, The “everywhere, everything to all people” is a ridiculous objective. Not everyone will want or need your product in the same place, same time. Where the customers really are, and are actively talking about their wants and needs, like forums is more important then the crossover presence. As a counterpoint to #4 (my fave) I’ll add #5: Not everyone really wants the “relationship.” People buy because they have needs and wants, and don’t always have time to build that connection. Like you said they want to be marketed to (not sold) on their own terms, and sometimes that means giving them the deal then getting out of their way. FWIW.

  7. I agree especially with “you can’t be everywhere” because creating accounts on as many social networks as possible dooms yourself–it is impossible to manage a viable presence on more then a few networks because duplicate and repeat content will be posted, and the quality of your posts will suffer as a result. Managing multiple networks is time consuming! This is an easy way to lose credibility, but also an easy thing to avoid. Great post.

  8. Hi Lisa,
    Yes, I also agree that “you can’t be everywhere” & “you can’t be always on”. After beginning to use Social Media for business purposes, I found myself spending more and more time on social media sites, so much so that it was affecting my productivity.

    Social Media is very addictive, but I recognized I had to find a balance, so now I dedicated small blocks of time to interact with my followers, friend, and customers.

  9. Lisa, miss your replies in here sometimes…
    As usual, stellar post. Refreshing to hear the news that we don’t have to be everywhere at once. I was gettin’ kinda tired.

    Did any of the Social Media Gods pour out any wisdom about integrating online with offline (e.g. the real world). Not implying that online isn’t real, btw. I’m finding that I need to do more than social media to truly drive new biz in the door. Some of it comes from my online activity, but the spigot opens up when I’m on the phone or in person. So, synchronizing online with offline seems pretty important.

    I heard about a woman who had season tickets to a Texas pro team (details fuzzy since I haven’t drawn that line in the sand). Every time her team scored, she jumped in the air and through confetti. Confetti happened to be hundreds of her biz cards and she got new biz out of every score! Hope it had her Twitter handle on it…

  10. Great piece, Lisa. As Cindy touched on, sometimes boundaries and small business owners don’t seem to mix. But it’s a key part of long-term growth and success.

  11. 20 years ago I received this sage advice from a very wise and successful man “People buy what they want from whom they like”. Social media gives us the power to reach more people, and let more people get to know us. This in turn gives us the ability to have more people buy from us (note I didn’t say “sell to more people”:)

    People have more choices now than ever before. Google your industry and look at the number of results!

    People need a way to choose, and they now have the ability to choose someone that they know, like and trust, or someone that someone that they know, knows, likes and trusts.

    It’s all about adding value. If you aren’t adding value to others (if you are just there to ‘sell’) you won’t win. When your focus is on how can I serve others, you win (and they do too).

    Great discussion! Thanks 🙂