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3 Signs That Social Media Might Not Be the Right Fit for Your Small Business

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3 Signs That Social Media Might Not Be the Right Fit for Your Small Business

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: September 9, 2013 Updated: September 9, 2013

Small-business social media use has become a barometer of our times for industry analysts who are eager to gauge the impact the economy and new technologies have on the way small firms do business.

And despite a few sluggish years, the latest data suggests that small businesses are turning to social media in droves in an effort to increase sales (source: Forbes and Manta). The problem is, no matter how much time they spend, some small businesses are not reaping rewards.

Why is this? The problem is that small businesses are expecting leads and sales, and while social media can definitely be a lead generator, Forbes reports that the expectations that small businesses have of social media is completely out of whack with how they are actually using it. Setting up a social media page, then posting promotions and events and hoping the sales will follow just isn’t going to cut it. Social media is not another direct marketing channel; it’s a patience game. It’s a place to answer customer service questions, to get to know your followers and build community.

But the question, “What should I be doing on social media?” is one that won’t go away for small business owners, eager to take advantage of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. So if you’ve ever asked what your business should be doing on social media, take a step back and consider whether it’s actually a good fit for your business at this point in time.

To help you decide, here are some signs that social media may not be right for your small business:

Do you have a website?

Do you have a website to act as a hub of information and back up your social media presence? Social media should never be considered the be all and end all of your online presence. If a user can’t find out more about who you are or what you sell online, then don’t get social. In addition, your website functions as a repository of other content that supports your social media strategy – blogs, white papers, and ebooks should all be housed on your website and then amplified and shared on social media networks. Your website is also home to lead capture devices that you promote on social media such as your newsletter sign-up page, customer surveys, event registration pages and so on.

Bottom line: a website lends your business and your social media presence credibility. Build that first before you get social. 

How are your other marketing activities doing?

Think of social media as the outer circle of your marketing efforts (your website is at the core). Between the two, there are a number of marketing must-haves that you should put in place before you get going on social media. Social media may be free, but it only works as part of a wider, integrated marketing strategy.

  • Get your logos and brand imagery in order – Make sure you have and are happy with your company logo and any other brand imagery that you use and that they are implemented consistently across all your marketing materials. Sounds obvious, but growing small businesses can sometimes go through frequent iterations of their corporate look as they try to establish a brand identity. Google Plus, Facebook and Pinterest are highly visual, so it’s important to get it right.
  • Claim your profile on search listing profiles – If you are a local business, claim your listing on Google Plus, Bing, Yahoo, Yellow Pages, etc. When people search for your business or the types of services you offer online, these listings are likely to show up prominently and help you get found. Add basic information to build out your profile.  Don’t forget to add your personal profile to LinkedIn, too.
  • Start a newsletter – eNewsletters are a great way to connect directly with those who want to hear about your business. You have a captive audience there; your message is delivered to their inbox and allows for a deeper conversation. It’s also a useful tool to help you spread the word about your social media presence.

Do you have the staff and resources to support social media?

Social media is a commitment that you shouldn’t take lightly. It may be free, but if you are going to be successful at it, you need to commit the right resources. Getting online once or twice a day and posting an update isn’t enough. If you want social media to work for you as a lead generator, then you’ll need to throw some headcount at it – someone who can write blogs, search and listen to what is being said about your industry, your business and your products or services. Someone who can gauge and track what type of content people are responding to.

I mentioned earlier that answering customer service questions is going to be a big part of  your social media efforts. This means that whoever is monitoring and posting content needs to be qualified – they don’t need to be a social media whiz, but they should know something about your company, its values, goals and customers.

Furthermore, be prepared to involve them in team meetings so they are informed about all elements of the business. In the same vein, make sure that each department – from sales to billing to product development ­– are aware and engaged with your social media efforts so that they can provide the appropriate responses to issues, learn from feedback and hear what the customers are saying.

Social media is not just some throwaway marketing strategy; it’s a public face of the company. So be prepared to understand the commitment you are making.

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About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Comments:

Social media is a huge time investment. I think one's time is better spent in getting found in the search engines and reaching out directly to your customer base. However, social media should still be a part of your online marketing, but it should not be your primary focus.
This is an excelleny post, Caron. While social media is huge, and everyone is talking about it seemingly non-stop. There are definitely industries and businesses that are not going to get the large ROI on social media that other companies will. Also having the right departments of employees is another important fact as well. Great article!
Caron, This post of yours should be required reading for every MBA student, SCORE personnel and small business coach in the country! The media loves to paint social media as the "sexy" alternative to old-fashioned marketing but fail to mention that social media isn't really a amarketing tool per se, but rather a medium for connecting with customers and (hopefully) potential customers. Despite having its importance of overblown, there definitely is some value to having a strong social media presence even if you don't work it every day. For instance, we found that potential customers frequently check out our company Facebook page before the evening go to our website as a way of better gauging our the way our business operates and what type of reputation as has, even though we don't post to Facebook more than a few times a month... if that. So definitely create a profile on as many social media accounts as time permits.
You need a plan and an approach for interacting in social media that works for you and your business. For example, maintaining an account in Facebook for your business can consume 8 to 10 hours a week if done properly. Twitter demands regularity in posts to get loyal followers and this can be time-consuming.
social media are a means of communication, effective advertising for all businesses. Its impact on the development of small business is not. With signs that social media may not be appropriate for your small business. From that will help you choose the best media fair
I am happy someone finally brought up this topic. Social media is a big investment, and I've witnessed the unrealistic expectations in my professional life. Many of the business owners who claim they're not "getting anywhere" through social media expect direct sales simply by posting a link to their website. Of course that's not going to generate revenue.I suggest business owners consider their own behavior on social sites and put themselves in their customers' shoes. I also appreciate your touching on the fact that a Facebook page is absolutely no substitute for a website. Not only do you have to cope with the content limitations you mentioned, but you are also at the mercy of a third party provider who cares nothing for you or your business.
While I strongly believe more small businesses should take social media seriously, this article is right on the money. If you don't have the ground floor built (website and marketing materials) or you don't have the support system (staff, resources, time), then you shouldn't join the social media fun. Having a dead Facebook page is much worse than not having a Facebook page at all. Thanks for the insight, Caron!

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