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Don’t Be a Social Media Marketing Skeptic – Learn Where and How to Start

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Don’t Be a Social Media Marketing Skeptic – Learn Where and How to Start

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 3, 2013 Updated: March 7, 2013

There’s no doubt that social media marketing is a proven and established platform for connecting with customers, building a community and generating business. Yet, despite the evidence of its effectiveness as a marketing tool, surveys and studies say few small businesses are making active use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to promote products and services.

A report by eMarketer found that just 24 percent of small businesses have integrated social media in a structured way in their businesses. The report also references findings from Constant Contact that only 49 percent of small businesses consider social media marketing effective.

Why the skepticism? Here are a few reasons and excuses I’ve heard:

  • “I don’t know where to start”
  • “I’m too busy”
  • “I don’t know which social media site is right for my business”
  • “I tried it but it didn’t work”
  • “I’m struggling to build engagement”
  • “I don’t have enough updates to keep my site looking active”

Knowing where to start is perhaps the number one obstacle holding many small business owners back. Knowing what to do when you get there is next. For example, should you use social media to generate leads? For branding? Customer service? Marketing? 

There are numerous blogs on the SBA.gov Community offering tips for getting started in social media marketing. One consistent piece of advice runs through them all: find out where your customers are, start small, and, as you learn, grow out from there.

How?

Last year, I wrote a blog called: How to "Pull Your Head Out of the Sand" and Use Social Media in Your Small Business where I summarized some of the great recommendations from a social media panel at the 2012 National Small Business Week Conference in Washington, D.C. The panel featured experts from Twitter, Constant Contact, Yelp, Google and others. Here’s a summary of their recommendations, a great baseline for getting started:

  • Which Platform is the Right One? Erica Ayotte, social media manager with Constant Contact, recommends businesses start with one channel to test and nurture it. Then try to diversify: “Spend a little time each week exploring new platforms and figure out if they might be for you.” GrowBizMedia’s Rieva Lesonsky recommends: “...find out where your customers can be found, go there first, and then spread out from there… if you run a restaurant, yes, you probably should be on Twitter, but you should really be on Yelp first.”
  • How do You Find the Right People to Engage With? Use search tools to identify and follow people who are influencers in your industry. For example, if you are in the restaurant business, identify food bloggers in your region, give them a follow, and slowly you’ll start to build and grow your followers and influence. The panel also stressed connecting your social media activity to your loyal email subscriber list. Send them an email to let them know about your social media presence and generate new follows from those who are already engaged.
  • What’s the Best Way to Engage with Followers? This is the one area that takes time. Start with interesting information. Google’s Jeff Aguero recommends starting with quality content – something you do really well – then amplify it with social media. Web chats, contests and surveys are great ways to engage, but the panel cautioned small business owners to resist this form of heavy interaction until their new social efforts have had time to grow. “Once you’ve established awareness and trust, then look to step up your approach,” suggested Constant Contact’s Ayotte. “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress,” she explained. “It can take some time to figure out what content is going to resonate with an audience… Try something new if no one responds to your Facebook posts.  It’s OK.  Tweak your posts until you find your sweet spot.”

Don’t Forget to Integrate Your Email and Social Media Marketing

Email is still the preferred method of communication among consumers, and Constant Contact predicts that in 2013 it will remain their preferred marketing channel as well. Email is also a key element in driving social media success, “…using both together to support one another can boost a campaign and bring greater collective benefits, as opposed to using just one or the other,” advises Constant Contact.

Learn from the Experts

There are myriad webinars, ebooks, blogs and other tools that can help you learn the tricks of the trade. Small business organizations like SCORE, Small Business Development Centers, and others also offer advice and seminars on this topic (use this interactive map to find resources in your area).

Here’s a selection of SBA blogs that can also help with key areas of your social media strategy:

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:

Many people still prefer to share privately via email. In particular, if you serve a business-to-business audience, the email sharing option likely will be well used. Make it easy to email a post or article. I got huge success for my site  This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.  using this method.
Agreed. Email works well for b2b because business people don't have much time to spend on facebook, etc. Therefore, a good database of email contacts is a piece of gold.
Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement. Thanks for sharing with us.I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!
Caron, This is a good start. I think it almost goes without saying that in ALMOST every business you need to be on some kind of social media platform. There are some exceptions to that rule. For instance, i would find it a little tacky for defense attorneys to be on social media too much. I couldn't imagine what one would tweet about.. "Guess what America, I just got a person acquitted of murder charges" Pretty awkward. Other than a small group of businesses, it is a must for most. Now that most search engines include social media as part of their ranking formula, it is a critical part of every business. There should be no skeptics left.
Something I would highly recommend is watching some webinars. SEOMoz just had one on how to build an online community. It was extremely helpful going over things such as the 80/20 rule, and most importantly "being human".
I recently published a list of free online courses for learning Social Media that can be really useful for people that need a more structured environment for learning. (This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices http://www.sba.gov/community for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.)
I am fulfilled to find this post very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I always want to research the amazing content and this factor I found in you post.
If you aren't incorporating social media into your online marketing mix, you are simply behind the eight ball. Even on network tv like ESPN, the announcers are displaying their personal Twitter handles for the world to see and follow! There has been no easier, cost-effective way to market than to the captive social media markets.
Nice piece! You do a great job zeroing in the reasons why small business owners hesitate to embrace social media and then provide all of the reasons why they should.
Fascinating post Caron,your have really pointed out some of the very important aspects that one should always keep into account when entering or surviving into a business.You have tried to focus on one of the very important aspect i.e; engagement part.Mean by using search tools to identify those people who will prove to be the influencers of your industry and to grab good followers.

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