Small Business and the Social Media Conundrum

Small sprout, small beginnings

Mention Social Media around a group of micro/small businesses and you will often get a lot of groans and rolling eyes.  “One more thing to do”… “I tried that, worthless”… “I just don’t get it…” just to name a few responses.  

Then there will be that one person who thinks social media is the greatest thing since sliced bread, (envy alert) and talks about how great it has been for their business.  For their particular business and personality type, it’s a natural fit.

But for many micro and small business people, social media is a bit of a conundrum. They often feel…

A. They don’t know what they should be doing. Which platforms? What should they post? How often?

B. They don’t have time in their already busy day.

C.  Overwhelmed as a result of A and B.

D.  All that social media stuff doesn’t work anyway.  They haven’t gotten any new customers from it.

E.  Don’t even bother with it, resulting from all of the above.

F.  Guilty that they’re not doing anything when everybody’s talking about how important social media is.

 

Those are a lot of concerns. 

I’m happy to say that there is a way forward.

In a recent Small Business WebTech discussion with Mark Traphagen of Stone Temple Consulting, he was quite reassuring that when it comes to social media and small business, even small steps can make a difference.

But first things first.  Or as Mark puts it, get your social media horses before the cart.

There are some things to be done that are good for social media, as well as beneficial for your business as a whole. It starts with some self reflection.  

1. Clearly articulate for you and your team members your business identity.  What you’re about, your values, what you do differently or better than anyone else (in marketing jargon, your Unique Value Proposition, or UVP), and why you do what you do.  All of this adds up to your Brand Identity.

2. Create content (your website, YouTube, podcasts,SlideShare, etc), driven by your brand identity that answers questions, provides helpful information or perspective, and is of value to people. When you start sharing on social media, this gives you something of substance to point to in your social media updates.

These two activities are not only good for social media but they’re good for your business in general – and not bad for search engines, either.  As tempting as it may be to skip them and just start “doing” social media, don’t.

But to address all those small business concerns mentioned earlier…

 

A.  Don’t know where to start.

Pick one network to begin.  My platform of choice is Google+ for lots of reasons, but for people who are already using and familiar with Facebook, it may be the easiest point of entry. Of course there’s also Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram…  Each one functions differently and attracts different types of people, so think where the prospective audience for your business is most likely to be hanging out.

You don’t have to post your own content every time you get on social media.  Commenting and resharing with a thoughtful introduction are important for developing a presence, building relationships, and building an audience.

When it comes to your own original content, for longer, more in depth pieces, once a month might be okay.  Shorter, more targeted updates could be once or twice a week.  As you develop more of a repository of posts, this will get easier. Whatever posting schedule you decide on, try to be as consistent as possible.

 

B. Don’t have time.

You don’t have to spend hours on social media.  30 minutes a day, most days of the week, is a good way to begin. Most everyone can carve out half an hour. Particularly if you understand that 30 minutes a day will get you a lot farther than 2 or 3 hours once a week.  If you can check in one other time during the day for a few minutes to respond to any comments, that’s even better.

What do you do when you are there? Being interested in others and engaging with them is critical.  Keep your goals in mind and keep it strategic so you don’t find yourself 3 hours later deep in a philosophical discussion on the merits of teaching babies sign language (unless that’s your business!).

Actually the greater danger is spending too much time on social media rather than too little, without really accomplishing what you set out to do.  It takes some discipline – set a timer if you need to –  and have a plan of what you want to accomplish during your 30 minutes.

 

C.  Feeling overwhelmed.

The overwhelm should be greatly reduced, if not eradicated, if you are on the 30 minutes a day plan.

 

D.  This social media stuff doesn’t work.

Usually this feeling comes from having the wrong expectations of what social media does and doesn’t do.

As Mark Traphagen explains, social media is not instant coffee.  It doesn’t produce instant results, be that gaining trust, acquiring new customers, or producing sales.

It’s a long term proposition.  Your efforts today will reap results somewhere down the road.  How long that takes is different for everyone.  It depends on the time you have available for content creation as well as social media itself, the type of business you have, and how quickly you are able to build an interested audience.

 

So why bother?

It is a great (did I mention free?) way to build (over time) trust in you and your company; relationships with people who can turn into referrers of your business; and increase your reach and brand awareness.

There is an indirect connection to a sale and the time you put into social media.  Here’s an example… Someone  might see a comment from you that they liked in a thread. Later they may see a reshare of a post of yours that piqued their interest. They may get interested enough to click through to the full post on your website.  Later a friend mentions they are following you, and now this person starts looking for your content.  When the need arises for your products and services, they just may give you a call.

Does that sound pretty iffy? There are no guarantees.  Just like when you plant a row of seeds, not all of them will germinate. But some of them will.

You don’t have any guarantees that your actions will create the results you’re after.  But if done correctly, you will attain these goals:

  • develop relationships
  • build a reputation as a trusted authority within your community
  • increase your brand awareness

I can say that with certainty from my own experience as someone who, until a year and a half ago had never been on any social media of any sort. It’s one of those “if I can do it, so can you” types of things.

Where all of this goes is not pre-determined, but all of these activities things are solid business choices.

 

F.  Feeling Guilty.

Don’t feel guilty, do get started.  As Mark says, “small steps consistently taken, will make a difference… the benefits will accrue”.

 

Mark’s 7 key small business takeaways

1. Your competitors have the same challenges and worries that you do and chances are they’re not doing anything about it. So if you just start doing a little, making your content helpful, targeted, and coming out of your heart and passion and business values, you’re already ahead of the game.

 

2. You don’t need everybody. You just need to find the small group of people that care about what you do. You start small and nurture that audience. Treat them like gods, serve them, and ask what more you can do for them. Make them feel special.  Some of them will begin to bring others into your audience.

 

3. Don’t give up. Half the battle is just showing up and being present.

 

4. Try different things.

 

5.Don’t get discouraged if at first you get little response. Learn from it.  Try a different approach.

 

6. Find someone you trust who will give you honest feedback on your content.

 

7. Remember that this is something that grows over time

 

Conclusion:

  • Small businesses can get results from social media, but you need to have the right expectations.  
  • It’s okay to take small steps.

We all know the phrase and truism, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

When it comes to small business and social media, an asterisk needs to be added.

*When it comes to social media and small business, a small step, done as well as you are able at the time, is better than doing nothing.

As Mark Traphagen advises, don’t compare yourself to big corporations with big budgets.  Honestly projecting your business identity in small steps, even if done imperfectly, is worth doing.  

And, truly, you’ll get better at it as you go along. 

So “Don’t rue the day of small beginnings.” It’s the perfect way for small businesses to get into social media.

 

 

Recommended Resources:

Mark Traphagen; “Is Your Social Media Marketing Cart Before Your Horse

Mark Traphagen, Small Business WebTech Show with John Moore and Marilyn Moore of RightStart Websites; “Getting the Horse Before the Cart: Social Media for Small Business”

Gina Fiedel, “What’s Your Why?” – for business identity help

 

introduction credit: John Moore

photo credit:Mehihe/pixabay