When talking to small business owners about social media, the argument I hear most often for their lack of involvement is they “don’t have time.” SMB owners are notoriously busy, known for wearing multiple hats, juggling responsibilities and working long hours. I understand that. And that’s exactly why you should be investing in social media. Because social media can help you perform tasks vital to the growth and success of your business faster and better than traditional means.
What am I talking about? Below are five common stressors for SMBs that they can accomplish faster and better through social media than without it.
1. Building Awareness
Everything starts here for a small business. Bigger brands already have this. People know they exist. Sometimes their names are even synonymous with the product they sell (right, Kleenex?). But that’s not the case for a small business owner. We have to build awareness before we can cash in on it. In the past, that meant running a lot of expensive promotions, it meant giving away a lot of free products and, even worse, it meant a lot of time being ignored. With social media, the playing field gets just a bit more level. Armed with tools like Twitter Search, Twellow, We Follow, Tweepz and others, you can find your audience without waiting for them to find you. You can be proactive about your marketing, connect with the people who should know about your business, and put yourself on their radar. Now the ball is firmly in your court.
2. Customer Support
When you have your ear to the ground it allows you to react quickly, and nowhere is this more important than in customer service. Business owners spend a lot of time on the phone or in email responding to disgruntled customers and dealing with support issues — often the same issues over and over. By engaging in social media you give yourself the opportunity to react faster, before a small problem becomes a big one, and to easily point people to resources designed to quickly resolve their problems. Social media also puts you into the conversation at an earlier stage and lets others see how committed you are to making things right.
3. Staying Top of Mind
Businesses are always trying to stay top of mind for customers. We want them to remember us when they’re on the hunt for services. And that’s where social media comes in. Interacting with customers via social media helps them remember you exist. It doesn’t matter if you’re specifically talking about a deal you’re running or if you’re just sharing what you’re up to. Seeing your face, your product or your logo keeps your brand in the forefront of their brains and helps them remember it’s been too long since they visited your restaurant for dinner. The simple act of engaging, regardless of what you’re saying, can give customers a reason to come check you out.
4. Competitor Research
To stay competitive, small business owners need to always keep an eye on what their competitors are doing. Staying abreast of the competition’s movements will help you spot trends, pinpoint new opportunities and clue you in to what other people in your industry are doing or looking at. In the past, this required a lot of listening in, eavesdropping and guesswork. Now? Now it means doing some twit-stalking, blog-stalking and monitoring conversations about your industry and your biggest competition. By following conversations happening about your competitors, you can put down that rusty tin can on a string and listen from the comfort of your own home.
5. Networking With Colleagues
If it takes a village to raise a child, it at least takes a small town to grow a business. And social media makes that town seem just a bit more intimate by connecting you with the people who can really help your business. Through my own personal social media use, I’ve interacted with future business partners, found guest blogging opportunities, and been introduced to some really interesting people and companies. This connection is something many small business owners never had before. They’re not left feeling as fragmented and disconnected as they once were, thanks to not only places like Twitter, but also communities like BizSugar.
If you’re a business owner who has always felt like you didn’t have time for social media, I’d ask you to turn that statement around. It’s not about finding the time to add something else into your day, it’s about using a new tool to do what you’ve always done, only faster.
It’s no brainer to see that social media is here to stay for good. Given vast variety of the existing channels to choose and stick with, it’s time for such a hot space to enter into a new category. There is a need for a portal to provide a quick and intelligent decision for both the consumer and the enterprise about their online connections.
A Platform to Help us to Distinguish Our Quality vs. Quantity Friends, Fans, Followers, and Companies
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Flickr and others have been doing a decent job of providing additional marketing exposure and even in some cases, additional revenue. However, as more and more social networking sites pop up, how do you manage your brand across all these channels? Maybe more importantly, which one of these sites should you select as the one that will help you best reach your target audience? The proliferation of the social media avenues is becoming overwhelming.
This glut of information reminds me of the early 90’s when WWW was adopted broadly by the general public. Every company rushed to have a presence, to the point it became literally impossible to find the right information on the Web. That’s when a better generation of search engines – at first the Yahoo! and then Google – entered the market and helped us find the most relevant information by just typing simple keywords in their search box. If you had asked before Google launched, if there was a need for another search engine – most would have said no, we already have those….
Then came Web 1.0 & 2.0 – Youtube, Flickr, myspace, Facebook, Twitter and countless others have turned everyday people into content producers, influencers and experts. We basically tripled down on the information overload How do you know which channels to select for deploying your social media strategy? How do you know which one is the right channel to let your fans and followers to find you, your products, and services? Most importantly, who is Joe Smith that is recommending that person, that company, that product?
I hope my awesomize.me can accomplish such a mission. The site is not another social networking platform. Yet the portal to all your existing social media channels. The platform helps you, your fans, your potential clients to make an intelligent decision as to which company to connect to or follow via which social media channels and why? It’s free!
CEO & Founder
I think when they say time it can also mean time to understand, learn and use social media properly to get results. It is the same as any marketing tactic, channel or platform.
Although there are many articles written on the how too many are general and perhaps they have not made it simple enough with specific steps for small businesses operating in different markets.
A couple of these seem like a stretch as time-savers, but I definitely agree that social media is great at detecting a customer service issue in its infancy as well as giving you powerful insights into your competitors minds and strategies.
All good reasons to use social media but all, if done well, are time consuming. Social media take time. And like other aspects of a business, the owner doesn’t have to do it all. Just as a team of people staffs the sales floor or makes sure products get delivered or puts out ads so, too, a team may be needed to listen to the social media conversation and participate in it.
Social media is only going to get bigger. It’s allowing the world to be much more of a global community and allowing people to have to ability to speak out.
And, of course, all this assuming your interest groups are reachable on social networks.
There’s a big difference between a restaurant mainly serving a local target group and, say, a shipyard serving the global shipping industry.
Sure, SMBs can work “faster” using social media. The question is, can they work “with better results”?