Small Business Still Requires Big Planning

There are a lot of positive signs that small businesses are starting to adopt social media marketing as an integrated component of their overall business plans.  One significant change, based on a February 2010 Small Business Success Index report, is the fact that social media usage among small business jumped from a meager 12% in 2008 to 24% in the following year (Yes, doubled).

Of those using social media, 69% post regular updates / articles of relevance to sites like FaceBook and LinkedIn. Two additional stats that made me smile were: 54% monitor positive / negative feedback via social networks, and almost 40% of the small businesses author a blog pertaining to their field of expertise.

OUTSTANDING!

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But hold on, that’s still only 1-in-5 of those surveyed.

So, let’s address some of the restraints keeping small businesses form jumping on board?

According to the report, 50% of the users say it takes more time than they expected.

This is a surprise? Okay, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but the reason they may have been caught off guard is a result of one or a combination of following:

  1. Some “Social Media Expert” duped them with dollar signs and drummed up statistics, set up a Twitter account and a FaceBook page and then ran off with  little to no strategy or support.
  2. They took it on by themselves with little to no understanding of building a social media community or marketing.
  3. They underestimated how little they knew about their brand, the audience and the business.

Of course social media marketing takes time! Just like scheduling  time to check voice-mail or email, small business owners need to adapt to make time for a little proactive community engagement. It pays off in the end.

Then there’s the statistic that made me laugh the hardest.  17% expressed that social media gives people a chance to criticize their business on the Internet.

Do they actually think criticism won’t happen if they stay away?  Go ahead, try it.  Then, call me when the business folds.  I know Realtors that need the square footage.

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Come on, folks, this should stand as a call to action for all small business owners (as well as those that market to/for them).  Social media is not going away any time soon.  And the quicker you figure out how to use it to your advantage, the better chances you’ll have for surviving the years to come.

Here are 10 starting questions I like to ask those looking into social media for marketing.

  1. What will make you stand out among the others “yelling into the chasm?”
  2. Who is your target audience?
  3. Who are your direct competitors?
  4. What could be some indirect inhibitors?
  5. Do you have a marketing plan – written down with goals, strategies, tactics and a reasonable budget?
  6. Is there a strategy or tactic within your marketing plan that social media could compliment / support (Public Relations, etc.)?
  7. Do you have the manpower/ time for social media marketing?
  8. (If not) Do you have the budget to outsource components of social media marketing?
  9. Do you know how to carry on an engaging conversation?
  10. Do you have patience?

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As with any marketing tool, social media has a unique profile in each company’s marketing plan. While a blog is a great core component to a social media marketing strategy, Twitter, YouTube and FaceBook may not always apply. Heck, If your target audience isn’t active online, don’t be a fool and put your time into broad social media integration. Just make sure to do a little research before jumping in and you’ll know what’s right for you / your company.

Where does your small business stand when it comes to integrating social media into your marketing plan?  Is it an add-on that will eventually fade away?  Or do you have the plan and vision to make social media work for you?

If you’re a small business that hasn’t embraced social media as a marketing tool, then I have two things to say:

  1. You’re losing out on a fantastic way to extend your marketing message as well as build brand equity.
  2. You’re probably not reading this and I’m writing for my already savvy followers and this is pointless.

Food for thought.

Keep Cooking! (Purposeful, results-oriented decisions)
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef

4 Comments
  1. YEP….on all points! Chef you know how to cook it up. Rockin…thanks

    • Hey Michael! Thanks!

      It is a true testament to marketers and the strategies that you and I put together to watch the numbers in the survey jump like they have. I’m curious as to how many of the “non-believers” can hold out much longer. While it’s not for EVERYONE, it is available to them. Their target market will be there – eventually. It’s just a matter of how to find them and bring them into the fold!

      Thanks for stopping by the kitchen, sir. It’s a true honor.

      Keep cooking!
      Andrew B. Clark
      The Brand Chef

  2. This is a space small business can’t leave behind in the dark. What other mediums are available for a brand to engage DIRECTLY WITH their targeted audience for free? I completely understand there is an extreme time commitment involved, but in the end you are still saving tons of marketing dollars while reaping the same, if not more, benefits.

    I think what happens is small businesses find themselves settled down or content with what they’re routine is. They don’t want to move things around for something that doesn’t see instant sales. These business owners need to understand the true value in this space. It’s not directly about the sales, it’s about developing relationships; the sales become second nature. Brands need to tell their story and offer value to their communities to build up their brand equity.

    Small business owners need to sit down and rework their ‘system’. This may mean the owner might have to delegate some responsibilities their used to doing.

    The bottom line is nobody can ignore this space. Everyone (small, medium, big & even personal brands) must listen, engage, and create value for their community.

    Great post Chef!
    @EricUngs

    • Great comments, Eric!

      I agree on its importance, but I do want to warn small (or any size for that matter) businesses that jumping into social media marketing isn’t something that they should do just because it’s new and “relatively inexpensive,” especially if they haven’t logically put social media into their overall marketing and business plans. I see so many companies jumping on the social media bandwagon with little to no regard of its reach and application. Strategy is still key.

      Just to put it into perspective (for me, at least) If I gave my 15 year old the keys to the car, while she’d have new freedoms and access to a wider world, it’d pretty dangerous to let her go without the proper education and training. Companies need to think it through just like that. Stay off the super information social media highways until you 1) know where you want to go, 2) know how to get there and 3) who’s going to be there once you’ve arrived.

      Thanks so much for stopping by The Brand Chef’s kitchen… It’s good to have you ’round the table to join the conversation.

      Keep Cooking!
      Andrew B. Clark
      The Brand Chef