Jim wasn’t a dumb man – you don’t run your own business for years without some ability. So when he began to hear about online marketing and some non-traditional ways to promote his small company, he was definitely interested.
So he looked around at what some other area businesses were doing and how they were using tools like blogs, Facebook and Twitter to attract attention. “Great,” he thought, “I’ll do that too.”
Jim started a blog through a free blogging service and linked it to his website. He set up a Twitter account. He created a Facebook page for his business.
But then Jim got busy. There are a lot of demands on a small business owner’s time and resources – employees get sick, the ebb and flow of customers changes, there’s a new accounting program to master. From time to time Jim thought, “Hmm, I really should write a blog post,” or “I should tell some folks on Twitter about my new special,” but he never managed to get anything like that done.
As the use of social media to market small businesses increases, lots of business owners are jumping on the bandwagon. Using social media effectively has some great benefits, but those are typically most impressive when regular efforts are made. Sporadic blog posts, once-in-a-while Tweets or a Facebook business page that never changes won’t help grow a company.
So what’s a time-crunched business owner like Jim to do?
1. Do it anyway. Make writing blog entries and using social media tools a higher priority. Set a schedule for making updates and stick to it religiously. Take the time to listen to others’ comments and work to educate your readers, followers and fans about what you do. Concentrate on being part of a community that mirrors your target customers, not simply sending out a sales pitch to random people. Make sure you do this for several months, while setting and working to achieve specific goals.
PRO: Nobody knows more about your business than you do.
CON: Takes time away from running the business and doing other important things like spending time with family.
2. Make social media part of an employee’s job description. You don’t have to have a stellar writer to make interesting blog posts. You just need someone who can spell (or use spell check), use reasonably good grammar and employ a style that suits your company. An employee is around the business all day and knows what’s going on. He or she can take two or three hours a week to focus on blogging, Tweeting and updating Facebook.
PRO: Saves you time, doesn’t cost a fortune.
CON: An existing employee is unlikely to be social-media savvy and may make mistakes that can impact your business and your brand. You still have to do a lot of hand holding to make sure it’s done right, especially at first.
3. Hire a marketing professional to do it for you. One problem is that everyone these days claims to be a social media expert. You’ll have to use some discretion when finding an outside specialist to handle your work. The good news is that a true professional will know about the pitfalls to avoid and will require much less hand holding, although you still want to have clear goals and ways to measure if those goals have been met.
PRO: You’re getting someone who has done this before and can bring a lot more experience to the table; you’re likely to see results more quickly.
CON: More expensive; you have to spend time telling the person about your business since he or she is probably not very familiar with your industry.
Some social media pundits believe that an outside writer will never understand the nuances of your business well enough to come up with truly authentic information, but that’s not necessarily true. However, you do have to work closely with the professional to make sure that he or she does not make any errors, such as incorrect terminology, that would make your business look clueless in front of potential customers. A professional will have a system for checking with you to keep from making such errors.
In the end, the two keys are to be consistent and authentic. We can help you create a plan for social media and stick to it. We can also help you create content that is professional, informative and interesting. But to do it right, whether you do it yourself or hire a marketing professional, you still need to be involved to ensure success.