Few things have had such a rapid and pervasive effect on small business marketing than social media. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other elements of this medium have added a new dimension to connecting and interacting with customers, colleagues, and potential business partners.
That small businesses have been early adopters of social media comes as no surprise to Jeanne Rossomme, founder and president of Washington, D.C.-based RoadMap Marketing.
“Small business owners were the first to see the potential and show real return on investment from social media,” Rossomme says, adding that she’s still impressed by “how quickly small business owners have seized on the medium and truly obtained positive results — sales, exposure, and so forth — with focused consistent communications.”
Melinda Emerson, CEO of MFE Consulting, Drexel Hill, Pa. — better known to many as SmallBizLady—also cites social media’s role as a conduit of real-time information from current and prospective customers, and the competition.
“Every business owner should be using social networking sites as a listening device to understand how their marketplace is changing,” Emerson says.
But like any other marketing tool, it’s important to understand what social media is, how it works and how it fits into your overall strategy
“An effective social media strategy must be tied to your customer ‘buy’ cycle — where and when customers make decisions on purchasing your product or service,” Rossomme advises. “Do they ask other for referrals/recommendations? Do they use their mobile devices to search for information? On which social media networks are they especially active? The answers to these general questions will help keep you develop a focused social media strategy.”
Before incorporating social media into your business/marketing plan, Robbin Block, marketing strategist and owner of Blockbeta Marketing, Seattle, suggests addressing these critical considerations:
# Understand where social media fits in the promotional mix.
# Know in advance the medium’s demographic differences; young people use Facebook differently than their parents and grandparents.
# Understand how social media affects other aspects of online marketing, particularly the growing connection between search engines and social media.
Block also cautions against limiting your social media strategy to the medium’s “Royal 3” — Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
“There are social opportunities at sites that serve specific industries, geographic areas, and those with common interests where you can connect with your audience,” she says, adding that small business owners may well determine that social media isn’t for them — at least not right now. “If your customers are somewhere else, that’s where you need to be.”
Jack Burns represents SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business, a non-profit organization that provides free and confidential business counseling. To contact the Quad-City SCORE chapter, call 309-797-0082.