Every day, articles about small business owners are published online and in print, describing in detail the trials and tribulations they face as they strive to succeed. They work IN the business as well as ON the business. Day and night, they put in long hours. When they are not actually working, they are thinking about the office or the shop or the showroom. They are often not truly “present” during family outings and on vacations; instead they are thinking about work, planning their next day or their next week, and wondering when they will find success.
Most have little time for developing traditional marketing and advertising campaigns, let alone online campaigns to take advantage of today’s many social media platforms.
Most small-business owners painfully navigate the choppy waters of economic meltdowns and increased competition. They strive to delight fickle customers at the same time they strive to understand changing technology. Most are bombarded with information and strategies about how to attract new customers and encourage loyalty among existing customers. Dozens of different “feet on the street” (sales representatives) offer advice to business owners on everything from website design and hosting services, print and online advertising, radio and television commercials, content marketing, traditional public relations, building a presence on “hyperlocal” sites, mobile advertising, text marketing … and the list goes on.
To Avoid “Analysis Paralysis,” Start with Social Media Basics
The social media maze can be so intimidating for some people that they decide to do nothing. Others take a shotgun approach, scattering their efforts in many directions. Still others spend considerable time and effort on social media but find that it does little to make the phone ring or send customers through the door.
Small businesses can take three key steps small businesses to successfully integrate social media into marketing strategies. Laura Click, CEO and founder of Blue Kite Marketing, a marketing and social media consulting firm based in Nashville, advises small business owners to:
1. Define goals and set a strategy. Clearly define ideal customers, identify points of differentiation from the competition, and state why customers should do business the company. Once these three elements are firmly understood, the ways to achieve stated goals can be determined and the decision about whether social media fits into the mix can be made.
2. Build a solid foundation. Create a robust website (with a URL owned by the business); establish a distinctive image (“brand”), develop a few key marketing messages and deliver them consistently, and maintain a solid reputation among customers and in the community at large.
3. Get smart about content. This includes writing articles, newsletters, blog posts, and tutorials to educate, enlighten, entertain, and inspire. People want to hear what the company is involved in, how it is run and by whom, and why it is worthy of garnering business from new customers.
Search Engine Land reports that social media alone may be enough for some small businesses to attract new customers — for example, those with very limited budgets, those whose audience is very active on social media, and those whose campaigns and content can be targeted and easy to analyze. But it is essential for most businesses to engage in search engine marketing, because it attracts more visitors and results in more conversions (visitors converting to customers).
Social media consultant Click agrees that social media alone may not be advisable for some businesses. Integrating social media and search campaigns into existing traditional media campaigns is an apt strategy for these businesses.
So instead of doing nothing, or taking a scattershot approach, or spending so much time on social media that other aspects of the business falter, small business owners should take a methodical approach, selecting one or a few approaches or platforms, be patient as the plan unfolds, monitor results, and tweak what doesn’t resonate with the target audience.