4 Big Social Media Mistakes SMBs Make

When a small business owner comes to me experiencing frustration with social media, I admit, I’m a little confused. Why? Because I can’t help but think that small business owners are the segment of the business population that is most suited for social media success. I mean, who knows how to talk to their audience better than a small business owner? Who understands customers’ needs better than a small business owner? Who lives and breathes the same everyday struggles? No one.

But then I realize that that’s not where small business owners find themselves in trouble. The trouble spots for SMBs are much different. Often they’re in the implementation of social media.

Below are four social media mistakes common to small business owners and how you can maneuver around them. Because once you do, you’ve got this social media thing down.

1. They don’t build a unified presence.

Social media doesn’t work when it exists as its own island or when it’s fragmented from everything else you’re doing. In order to truly benefit, your marketing campaigns should work together. For example, your website should support what you’re doing on Twitter, which should support what you’re doing on YouTube, which should support what you’re doing on your website. Creating a unified presence helps customers to trust your brand, to find the information they’re looking for, and to pick the form of engagement that makes most sense for them. If you’re using Twitter but not connecting it to anything else you’re doing, you may be causing your customers to question if that account really belongs to you or if they’re supposed to be engaging with you there. Customers want to get the same “feeling” from all your touch points. If your presence isn’t unified, you may be sending them mixed signals.

2. They’re not connecting with customers.

I don’t mean emotionally, I mean physically. One of the biggest mistake I see small business owners make with social media is that they log on to talk to people, to share what they’re doing, to gripe about something that ruined their day, but they’re not proactively connecting with potential customers. They’re not taking advantage of Twitter’s Advanced Search features that allow you to search by ZIP code, hashtag, sentiment or combination of keywords. They’re not getting more out of their Facebook status updates by targeting content to a particular area or interest group.

If you’re a pizzeria located in Columbus, Ohio, you should be using Twitter’s Advanced Search to find people in your area talking about how they want pizza for dinner. When you find them, invite them to come try your pizzeria instead of spending another boring night ordering in from one of the larger chains. There are ways to be a proactive business in social media. These are the opportunities SMBs should be seeking out.

3. They don’t use tools.

No. I am not suggesting that you automate your social media presence, but there are tools out there that you can use to make social media more manageable and to help it fit into your day.

For example, a tool like HootSuite can help you schedule tweets in advance so that you can share posts without being present. It will also allow you to manage multiple accounts (personal + professional) and sync your Twitter and Facebook updates so you can post at both locations with one button.

Creating Saved Searches on Twitter can help you find quick brand or keyword mentions that you should be watching and responding to so you don’t miss any important conversations. It can also help you find users in your area who tweet about topics you’re interested in.

Services like Tweepz or Twitter Grader are also good platforms for finding relevant users to follow and start conversations with.

Using these tools can help small business owners do more, faster, by putting them in touch with the users they want to connect with and helping them quickly find conversations to participate in.

4. They don’t empower employees.

I see a lot of small business owners experimenting with social media. However, I don’t see that many small business employees participating in social media. I’m not sure whether their bosses are discouraging it or whether they just don’t think to encourage it. However, as the owner of a business of any size, it’s up to you to empower your employees to use social media. Your customers want to hear from them. They want to hear their stories, learn their names, and get to know their voices. If this is done correctly, your employees can become great advocates for your company and help you build awareness and trust among a larger audience. But first you have to let them. That means teaching employees how to properly engage, giving them guidelines for that interaction, and then trusting them to represent your brand properly.

Those are four mistakes I see common to social media. What am I missing or where do you find yourself struggling?


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.

17 Reactions
  1. Lisa, I think it’s easy to find solutions for item numbers 1-3 that you’ve mentioned here, but the last one will be something tough to implement. There are many businesses who fear that they won’t have total control over what their employees post online so in some offices, it’s amazing to find that social networking sites are blocked during work hours. Then, there’s the social media policy that won’t let them talk about the brand and stuff. Also, if they are allowed to participate online, they would have to do it as a ghost, or to do it under the company’s name. So, if these businesses can’t trust their employees to engage with people online, how would their so-called ‘target markets’ trust them in return? If I were to add one more item on your list, it would be: How to turn your employees into brand advocates… so they can promote your brand better on the social web.

  2. Lisa, just to add more juice to your points, I believe, it’s time for social media space to enter into a new category and I hope my new gig, Awesomize.me leads the way. Here is my 2cents on this whole internet -> search Engine -> Social media things and my rational on why there is a need for a portal to provide a quick and intelligent decision for both the consumer and the companies about their online connections. A Platform to Help us to Distinguish Our Quality vs. Quantity Friends, Fans, Followers, and Companies:

    – Early 90s: WWW was born…
    – By mid 90′s: millions of sites popped up on the Web…
    – Mid – late 90s: Yahoo & Google were born to help us to find the right information of the right pages on the Web…
    – Early 2000: Social media was born…
    – Late 2000: Millions of pages created by people, companies, and organizations on all these social media channels.
    – 2011: Deja vu all over again… we are back to early 90’s…
    – 2012 and beyond…the days of just setting up a website or blog to promote yourself, your talent, your business, and your solution offerings AND creating a page for them on Facebook, LinkedIn, are Twitter are O-V-E-R!. Your social media pages and sites should be on a place where the vast number of users and communities can easily find you, learn about you – AND – express their opinion/rate you and your goodies. If you are confident you are selling something awesome, you need the power of the crowd to promote you (and your company) anyway.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback.

  3. Very good advice, top to bottom. I would say, though, that I never really got my momentum going with social media until I started using SproutSocial. No, I have no vested interest in the company, I just have been around software for eons and these guys really got it right. It’s such a pleasure. I can monitor all my messages and mentions, schedule messages for any day/time, see my stats, decide which “tweet” will go where, and keep track of my overall influence and engagement. It has been an awesome tool. I think they deserve to succeed.
    Kristin Zhivago – author – Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy

  4. Margaret (Peggy Inez) Pohorence

    I will keep this as short as one possibly can…Sometimes I just have to reply….so here goes…
    In my opinion…in today’s social media…Yes…in each area…relate to something that is the MOST IMPORTANT…so the interested individual does reconize it as being the correct business they are searching out…(there are so many business names that look and sound alike…matter of fact, we all are aware one business will purposely pick up on the name of another successful business…hoping to pick up business)..but..in your business…never waste room with repeats. People get bored…!!!

    With today’s social media…this is a hard-one. Yes…it it most important to connect with your customers. They must like you, respect you, trust you, value your product and/or business above any other in the area, and such customer needs to know that you feel….THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT!!!! But…first and foremost….THEY MUST LIKE YOU AND TRUST YOU! Now…you cannot do that on line…yes…you can have your employees spend many hours on line…that is if they do not have anything else to do and then they really would not ….HAVE A JOB!!! Yes….social media advertising and/or marketing has changed! It is a challenge. In my opinion…unless such owner can afford to simply hire someone to completely spend their time socializing on line in the name of the business….then it is mostly up to the owner in their spare/time….which means …. if they are a successful business…long, long, hrs. Yes…this is a hard one.
    Well…this sort of goes back to the social media again…not using all the on-line tools available to such business…as you can see…I am an author for the young reader and family. My second novel is about to hit the market. I am using every tool that my publisher made me aware of and maybe more….Did I do it with the first book….No….I used my old-fashion way of mostly print advertising and a non-professional web-site….things have changed a little bit this time….Bless all those wonderful students I worked with in my Baton and Dance Classes for so many years and their families for supporting me with my first novel…The Gully…for the young reader and family. Now….I have entered another method of social-media and I find it most intersting…..a real challenge…and hopefully by using the social-media on-line, as my publisher suggested, maybe I will even have a more successful run with my upcoming novel…BEYOND BELIEF..but in stating this….I am also a part-owner of a family-owned dealership and it is fasinating to me….to see how marketing has changed!!! I did take one of the names under this section you listed above…as I had never heard of it…so thank you for that new info. I am also learning from young individuals like yourself and I do so appreciate it. But…in stating that…I still continue to believe …. I can sell a product better in person!!! But….will we stop using the tools available to us….Of course not…now one must ask….”What did we ever do with our on-line social-media?”
    This one is hard to even comment on….as again…unless one has a large number of employees…there is not time to empower such employees for an on-line purpose. Most small business employees are hired with a specific position in mind! If you are a walk-in-customer business…you better make sure you are there for them and them only!! THE CUSTOMER COMES FIRST!!

    I would like for you to know Lisa….I would give anything to be as up-to-date and right on top of the business world, as the above opinions you stated are….as you are totally correct for today’s world. But….I ask you to keep in mind…that with on-line social-media…IT IS ALSO IMPOSSIBLE TO PULL THAT POTENTIAL CUSTOMER CLOSE TO YOU; TO ACTUALLY CREATE A LONG-TIME FRIENDLY-BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP THAT WITHSTAND YEAR AFTER YEAR. As such customer will always be on line…looking for something better!!!
    That is a definate problem for small business’s today…so I will end this up….by stating…..I feel I wish to add to this…our family business is….TREASURE COAST HONDA/KAWASAKI, IN FORT PIERCE, FLORIDA. IT IS FAMILY-OWNED-BUSINESS,AND MANAGED BY OUR SON AND HIS WIFE. It is going just as strong today as it has been over the last 40+ years. Why…because we have the best products, we have the best staff, and we have reconized throughout the years…that…OUR CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT! If they come to us as a walk-in or thru on-line….WE WOULD NOT BE IN BUSINESS WITHOUT EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM.

    I do so appreciate your input and you probably can tell…that I really do enjoy writing….Happy thoughts to you and to all that takes the time to read my opinions. Peggy Inez, Author & Storyteller

  5. Before letting loose your employees into the social media universe, do a little education on what is expected (and what is discouraged). Let them know what the goals are and then let them be themselves. Authenticity is the currency of the realm in social media.

  6. I would add choosing the right social network/activity. For example, many businesses have chosen Facebook before even contemplating what it is they want to achieve. They need to take a step back and look at the tools which are going to be most appropriate to help them achieve these goals.

  7. Lisa,

    Our CEO has stated that rather than have another “website,” he’d rather have the company Facebook function as a method of attracting and hiring new talent that will integrate into our “culture.”

    However, he’s also stated quite coarsely that he really doesn’t care what our current employees like or want, and perhaps doesn’t even want them on the company Facebook. So with this said, he wants me to find a way to make the company seem fun and energetic to work for, somehow.

    Does this seem somewhat at odds to you? My first thought is that if he wants to make our team look like a fun place to work, and wants to hire people that will integrate with the team here already, then we should ask our employees what THEY find to be fun with the intention of attracting more people like them.

    Advice is welcomed.

  8. Interesting points however I still think they ignore a few basic issues that most small business owners face.
    1. They don’t have the time or the expertise to keep up with Social media and to be honest, for most of them it is not worth it. Their time and effort is better spent elsewhere – like making sure they have an effective web site!
    2. There are still no effective tools for quickly and easily measuring the ROI or effectiveness of Social Media for the small business. The results they get are often due to other factors.
    3. Many small business do not have an on-going engagement with their customers. Now, I know it is easy to say they should have but the reality is if I have a new roof put on my house I am unlikely to need another one for 20 years. The chances of my being interested in what my roofer has to say is slim to none. Trying to use Social Media to engage me would be a waste of time.

    Now I know that there are definitely benefits to using Social media however this is definitely a case of the needing to apply the 80 /20 rule. Do the 20% that will give you 80% of the result. Have a presence just don’t spend too much time and effort on something that does not bring you results.

  9. I enjoyed your post and know it will be very helpful for SMBs who are eager to use social media but are still learning the ropes. I completely agree that most small businesses know it’s important to use social media, but they often make mistakes when setting up their social media strategy. Even before setting up their strategy though, many small businesses need help in just getting started and understanding the landscape. There’s so much information online, but busy entrepreneurs don’t have the time to sort through it all

  10. Lisa,

    Couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve seen many businesses out there “venting” to customers about a bad customer! There are times were the recommended choice is to just hire someone to manage your accounts, allowing you to separate yourself from handling accounts with too much emotion. Managing your reputation is key and many find themselves taking it out on customers online. If the owner doesn’t want to hire someone get an employee to do it.

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