Social Media for Small Business

Social Media for Small Business
by Scott Grigg

One of the tasks in my former job as a public relations supervisor was to develop the company’s social media efforts.  That meant we first had to educate our  key groups such as  legal, senior management, etc. on what social media was. Most of them looked at my colleague and me with no small degree of apprehension.  

What finally convinced our executives to jump into the social media foray was after a volunteer firefighter tweeted about a coal fire at one of the company’s power plants.  The tweet gave an impression there was a raging fire in one of the coal piles.  The reality was that there was some smoke, no flames and it wasn’t much of a story.  But, the media picked up on that one tweet and pretty soon we were fending off calls on this so-called fire which was so minor that none of us in public affairs had known about before the calls started to roll in! 

That illustrates an all too familiar problem in the world of public relations and marketing.  What you don’t know CAN hurt you. If you are a small business, you should at least explore a social media plan for small business.

Forrester Research recently produced a popular video you can view on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjRV0hMJtxc   It’s chocked full of interesting stats such as Gen X folks now outnumber Baby Boomers and 96 percent of them have joined a social network.  While it took radio 38 years to reach 50 million listeners, it only took the Internet four years to reach that many while Facebook reached 100 million users in less than nine months! 

Pepsi recently opted out of the annual orgy of Super Bowl ads in favor of social media marketing and it’s easy to see why.  Facebook, the behemoth of social media, is somewhere north of 500 million users. 

Were FB a country, it would now be about the third largest.  Facebook’s figures say half of its users utilize the site everyday, spending an average of 35 minutes online.  Imagine. Five-hundred MILLION people.  A marketers dream.  An average network TV show in the U.S. is lucky to draw 7-9 million viewers.  The top show, American Idol draws about 25-28 million on a good night and that’s pretty much unheard of these days for network TV.

Social media also comes with a few downsides that are often the largest pitfalls for corporations. However, social media for small business can help you develop your brand and a relationship easier with your customers.

One, you have to engage your audience and interact with them. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen posters using Hootsuite to automatically post comments and or sayings without responding to a single comment on their Facebook page. I call this trying to lead the conversation without actually engaging in it!

Second, you need to acknowledge your customer’s concerns and then ACT ON THEM quickly. Remove a bad comment just because you don’t like it not only risks your credibility but people see you as someone who obviously does not want to respond to a legitimate complaint.

Third, provide good content. Whatever your business is, or you do, provide readers with something they didn’t know. Provide them with an “ah ha” moment so they come back to your blog or page.   All too often, corporations do a blog, post it and that’s it. It’s often information that has been so edited it reads like an instruction manual.  Make it fun. Make it personal. Tell people something about your business and yourself. I’ll give you an example. Did you know the most watched part of Live with Regis and Kelly is the first segment where they talk about their lives, etc? People want to know about the person behind the blog, website or page. 

Small businesses engaging in social media may also want to consider contents or internet only coupons as a way to further engage customers.

Bottom line – if you want to communicate with the public or market in any meaningful way, you must be thinking of the internet and social media.  If it’s not part of your “mix” you’re depriving yourself of a major tool to connect with current customers and start a conversation with new ones.

Note: Grigg is a social media consultant and online marketer. His blog can be found at http://onlinewithscott.com

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